By Burak Karacaoglu and Esref Musa
The Assad regime has recently stepped up air and artillery attacks on opposition-held parts of Syria’s northwestern Idlib province.
According to Syrian civil-defense officials, regime forces have been using internationally-banned weapons, including barrel bombs and phosphorous munitions, resulting in heavy civilian casualties.
Late last month, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad told Russia’s TASS news agency that Idlib would be the “next target”, describing the region’s roughly four million civilian residents as “terrorists”.
Located in northwestern Syria near the Turkish border, Idlib was designated a “de-escalation zone” -- in which acts of aggression are expressly forbidden -- in May.
Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on protesters with unexpected ferocity.