Terrorists are preparing to stage chemical attacks and the destruction of infrastructure in the south of the Idlib de-escalation zone, Maj. Gen. Yuri Borenkov, the head of the Russian Defence Ministry’s Center for Reconciliation in Syria, said on Thursday.
“The Russian center for the reconciliation of the warring parties received information that the leaders of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorist group (formerly known as the Al-Nusra Front*), together with members of the pseudo-humanitarian organisation White Helmets, were plotting to stage the use of toxic substances and the destruction of civilian infrastructure in the settlements of the southern part of the Idlib de-escalation zone”, he said.
The purpose of these provocations is the preparation of photo and video materials for distribution on Internet resources, Middle Eastern and Western media publications with allegations that Syrian government forces were using chemical weapons against civilians and conducting indiscriminate attacks, he added.
He also said that the Russian military police is continuing to patrol routes in the provinces of Aleppo, al-Hasakah and Raqqa.
It was reported earlier that the White Helmets group was boosting its presence in Idlib and preparing a provocation in the province. The group enjoys wide publicity and endorsement in the West but has been accused by Damascus of extremism and spreading propaganda.
In September 2018, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin set up the Idlib de-escalation zone along the contact line between the armed opposition and government forces. The withdrawal of heavy weaponry operated by militants was also part of the agreement.
Both Erdogan and Putin have stressed the need for coordinated efforts to combat the terrorist threat in Syria, including in Idlib province.
Syria has been engulfed in a devastating civil war since 2011, with the government forces fighting against numerous opposition groups as well as militant and terrorist organisations.