The Syrian military offensive against rebel-held Idlib Province is seen as a foregone conclusion, with a lot of speculation that it could start soon. The substantial rebel factions within are taking no chances, and are gearing up for what could be the largest battle of the entire Syrian war.
An estimated 70,000 rebel fighters, with roughly 10,000 of them UN-designated terrorists, are setting up defensive positions and ambush points around Idlib, ready to fight over the last of their territory inside Syria.
Multiple bridges south of Idlib, likely to be used as part of the military’s advance into the area, were destroyed on Friday. Other bridges remain, but this is expected to slow the advance of forces into the area.
Aid groups are also bracing for the crisis such a large fight would bring. The UN estimates 800,000 could be displaced, and Idlib is already housing nearly two million displaced from other areas of the country.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned Syria against any attempt to retake Idlib, saying the US will view it as an “escalation” of the war. Russia is backing the Syrian government, however, saying they have every right to recover parts of their territory from the rebels.