Russia's Ministry of Defence said on Thursday it would hold a major naval exercise in the Mediterranean Sea from September 1 to September 8, the TASS news agency reported, a move that coincides with rising tensions between Moscow and Washington over Syria.
The region was hit by sporadic airstrikes and shelling in advance of a Russian Defense Ministry announcement Thursday that its forces will begin a "large-scale" Mediterranean Sea exercise that the Kremlin says is needed because of the failure to address the jihadi presence in Idlib.
The last enclave for the rebels is in the Idlib province, but government troops are reportedly preparing for an offensive.
Armoured vehicles carrying commando units were deployed to join the Turkish armed forces (TSK) military forces stationed at the border of Turkey and Idlib, Syria. Almost half of them arrived in Idlib in recent years after fleeing violence in other corners of Syria.
UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said there was a high concentration of foreign fighters in Idlib that includes an estimated 10,000 fighters designated by the UN as terrorists, who he said belonged to the al-Nusra Front and al-Qaeda.
Abdurrahman said two other bridges remain in the area and could be used by government forces to move in on the rebel stronghold.
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National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu discussed Syrian crisis in a phone call, a Defense Ministry source told Anadolu Agency (AA).
"What we need to do now is to wipe out those terrorist groups which persist, particularly within [Idlib]", said Mr. Lavrov, accusing rebel groups within Idlib of targeting Russian bases with military drone attacks.
Days after Russian military officials criticized the USA for adding to the number of destroyers deployed off the coast of Syria, coming amid mounting tensions and U.S. threats to attack, Russia has announced naval wargames off the coast for its own substantial naval presence. "They were behind the organization of those fabricated scenarios for the use of chemical weapons and now they are preparing such a development of the situation with the use of chemical weapons in Idlib", Muallem said.
"We warned the USA not to engage in another baseless and unlawful aggression against Syria".
The Syrian port of Tartous is critical for that Russian deployment. The strike came one week after an alleged gas attack on the city.
Ankara also fears a major offensive could unleash a new flood of refugees across the Turkish border, which the United Nations also warned of.