Turkey brands al-Qaida group in Syria terrorists

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The US officials will also touch upon Russia's repeated warnings of a potential false-flag chemical attack to be staged by rebels in Syria's Idlib, which the US State Department labeled "specious allegations".

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Thursday that Israel will continue to act in Syria as it deems necessary for its national defense, without consideration for the worldwide agreements that would formally end the brutal eight-year civil war in the country. The al-Qaeda-affiliated Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group only is estimated to have almost 60,000 militants in the city.

While Russia and Syria in the past have often have referred to all of their armed opponents as "terrorists", in the case of Idlib, they appear to be making a distinction in a bow to Turkey, which provides backing for numerous more moderate Sunni rebels in the province and which has joined Moscow and Tehran in sponsoring Syrian peace negotiations in the past year.

The US Defense Department told Sputnik Thursday that it was aware of reports of a huge military exercise Russian Federation planned to stage in the Mediterranean Sea this week, and hoped Moscow would follow the rules of safe conduct. Thousands protested in various towns in Idlib and Hama, denouncing threats of an attack and hailing the area's readiness to fight.

"We see different gatherings in a variety of places-in Ankara, in Tehran, in Geneva-talking about redesigning Syria after Idlib", Liberman noted, adding that, "The only thing that concerns us is the security interests of the State of Israel".

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Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has warned Russian Federation that seeking a military solution in Idlib would cause "catastrophe" and trigger an new influx of refugees across its borders.

Idlib and the surrounding area is home to some 3 million people - almost half of them, including Alhamdo, already displaced a couple of times by the civil war - choosing to live in opposition areas. "If the Russians and the Syrian government attack Idlib, the door to Hell will open in the region because of all the Syrian dissident terrorists gathered in Idlib and its suburbs", said one of Syrian. The province contains an array of militant groups, including the ultra-radical Levant Liberation Committee (LLC), which is also known as the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front. Western countries immediately blamed Damascus for the attack. But de Mistura continued to plead for protection for the millions of civilians who could be caught up in the battle. "This would not be meant to substantially alter the Idlib battle, but rather to uphold the global convention against the use of chemical arms". Although Americans and the West have never been able to prove their claims that Damascus has used weapons of mass destruction, the United Nations refused to hold them accountable.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey will meet President Vladimir Putin of Russian Federation and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran on Friday to discuss Syria, in the latest round of their discussions on Syria known as the Astana process.

After years of war and constant shelling from pro-government forces, the emergency services in Idlib have been reduced to rubble and supplies of critical aid are low, according to medical workers.

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