MOSCOW, August 25. /TASS/. Several thousands of militants with heavy weaponry and armored vehicles gave gathered in Syria’s Idlib province to launch an offensive on government-controlled regions of Hama and Aleppo, the head of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides in Syria, Maj. Gen. Alexei Tsygankov, told reporters on Saturday.

The Russian official said that more than 70% of the territory of Idlib is now controlled by terrorist groups. The biggest of them is Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, outlawed in Russia).

“Last week, the leader of this terrorist organization, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, urged all Idlib gangs to launch a jihad against the secular Syrian state. The number of proponents of political dialogue, detained and kept in prisons, has topped 500 people. Several thousands of militants with heavy weaponry and armored vehicles have gathered for an offense on Hama and Aleppo,” Tsygankov said.

He added that in the past day, former members of illegal armed groups in southwestern Syria have turned in 396 guns and 600 kilograms of ammunition.

Earlier on Saturday, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said a provocation with an alleged chemical weapons use in Syria, which terrorists are plotting to stage with the assistance of UK special services, will serve as a pretext for missile strikes by the West and the United States against the Arab country.

According to the Russian general, the provocation will be staged by terrorists of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorist organization (formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra outlawed in Russia) and for this purpose eight containers with chlorine have been brought to the Idlib province.

Meanwhile, the US Navy’s destroyer Sullivans with 56 cruise missiles on its board arrived in the Persian Gulf several days ago while a B-1B strategic bomber of the US Air Force armed with AGM-158 JASSM air-to-surface missiles was redeployed to the Al Udeid air base in Qatar,” the Russian general said.

The US and its allies already used terrorists’ provocations in the past as a pretext for delivering missile strikes against Syrian government facilities.

On April 7, 2017, US President Donald Trump ordered a strike on the Shayrat air base. The attack, involving 59 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, came as a response to the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Idlib province on April 4. Damascus dismissed those accusations based on testimony by the White Helmets organization.

On April 14, the United States, Great Britain and France delivered a massive strike on Syria without the UN Security Council’s authorization. According to Russia’s Foreign Ministry, the attack with more than 100 missiles targeted a research center in Damascus, the headquarters of the Republican Guard, an air defense base, several military aerodromes and army depots. Washington, London and Paris claimed that the missile strikes were a response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government troops in the town of Douma.

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