Mass demonstrations swept across many towns and villages in Idlib provinces and northern rural Aleppo and Hama to show support for civilians in Idlib and denounce any possible military action by the Assad regime and its allies against the region. The region is home to about three million civilians, half of whom were already forcibly displaced from other parts of Syria.
Activists said that thousands demonstrated after Friday prayers in rural Aleppo, Idlib and Hama to demonstrate solidarity with Idlib in the face of the Assad regime’s threats to assault the region and displace its inhabitants.
Demonstrators waved the flag of the Syrian revolution and chanted slogans emphasizing the continuation of the Syrian revolution until the fulfillment of its demands to overthrow the Assad regime and regain freedom and dignity.
They also stressed their insistence on achieving their demands and carried signs that read "resistance is our option" expressing their readiness to confront any potential military campaign by the Assad regime and its allies.
The demonstrators condemned the remarks recently made by the UN envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura. The Syrian Coalition earlier said that de Mistura’s remarks came as a precursor to the planned onslaught by Russia and the Assad regime on civilians in Idlib.
Meanwhile, regime forces carried out rocket shelling on the town of Habeet in rural Idlib in the early morning hours of Friday, without reports of casualties among civilians.
Idlib province also saw intense activity by reconnaissance aircraft amid fears of renewed airstrikes on towns and villages in the region. The Syrian Civil Defense on Thursday said that its center in the town of Al-Tamana’a was put out of service after it was hit with airstrikes. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department)
Head of the Syrian Opposition’s Negotiations Commission, Nasr al-Hariri, said that the battle for Idlib, should the Assad regime and its allies go ahead with their plans to attack the province, will not be easy. He called on the international community to prevent new crimes against civilians there and stand by them in “their long battle against the Assad regime and terrorism."
Hariri pointed out that "Syrians today stand united in the face of the forces of murder, criminality and terrorism," adding that "the battle of Idlib will not be easy for the regime and its allies if they decided to attack the province."
“The Assad regime and its allies "have been using terrorism as a pretext for targeting civilians," Hariri added. He stressed that the international community should prevent any military operation against Idlib. "The whole world must stand today in the face of the tyrannical regime and all its allies."
Hariri urged support for rebel fighters who are defending themselves and their families. "The world must stand by those heroes who have committed themselves to defend their people and honor in a long battle against the regime and terrorism in all its forms.”
Meanwhile, eight European countries, including five on the UN Security Council, issued an appeal Thursday for protection of civilians in Idlib.
Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden said in a joint statement they were "deeply concerned" about military action in northwest Syria "with potentially catastrophic humanitarian consequences for civilians."
"A full-scale military offensive in Idlib would put at risk the lives of more than three million civilians, including one million children, living in the region," said the joint statement.
Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog said the European council members were sending a "strong message" to the guarantors of the Astana process ahead of the Tehran summit.
The eight nations urged Russia, Iran and Turkey to uphold the ceasefire and de-escalation arrangements that had been agreed in Idlib, "including protecting civilians as a matter of priority." They warned of possible mass displacement and recalled that any use of chemical weapons would be "totally unacceptable." (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)