A military offensive in Idlib would be a pivotal moment in the seven-year conflict, one that may have grave humanitarian and regional consequences.
The Syrian opposition stronghold is one of the four de-escalation zones,
which included Eastern Ghouta, part of Homs and areas in the south western provinces of Deraa and Quneitra.
The deal was negotiated last year to stop violence and protect civilians.
But since January this year the Syrian regime in blatant violation of that agreement has captured three of them,
which now leaves this last significant enclave of armed opposition that grows up against President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Capturing Idlib would put almost 75% of the country under government control.
But government forces would have to fight a coalition of key rebel factions.
With reportedly an estimated 70,000 fighters in order to achieve that goal.
Idlib is also strategically important.
It shares a border with the government stronghold Latakia, home to the biggest Russian military airbase in the country.
And the M5 highway, which is the country’s main north-south artery, collecting Turkey Syria and Jordan runs right through that province.
Idlib also shares a border with Turkey, which is called any offensive there a red line.
Turkey has encircled the province with 12 observation points along the front lines.
A military escalation in Idlib would be catastrophic for its population within half of which are internally displaced, making the biggest cluster of displacement counts in the world.