KAFR NABL, Syria – Syrians in the northern town of Kafr Nabl, located in one of the last opposition-held territories in the war-torn nation, staged a demonstration on Friday against a looming government offensive that international agencies have warned could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.
The demonstration in Kafr Nabl coincided with similar acts in towns and cities across Idlib province as tensions simmered over fears President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and regional allies like Iran and the Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah, was preparing for a massive military onslaught on the region.
Protesters waved massive flags emblazoned with the green, red and white tricolor and red stars – a defunct national flag design adopted by the original rebel movement in Syria when civil war broke out nine years ago.
Assad has his eyes set on Idlib province as it is one of the last remaining opposition strongholds in Syria. Damascus managed to regain much of the rest of the country after Russia entered the fray in 2015.
The United Nations has called for warring parties to avoid a fullscale battle in Idlib, warning that it would unleash “a humanitarian nightmare” unprecedented even in the bloody Syrian conflict.
In Kafr Nabl, demonstrators held aloft signs addressing Assad, Putin and Trump urging an end to violence against Idlib.
The northerly province, which backs onto Turkey and areas of northern Syria controlled by Turkish-backed rebels, has been used as a repository for rebel fighters and their families evacuated from other areas of Syria as part of ceasefire deals with Assad’s forces.
It is controlled by a myriad of rebel groups, ranging from the Free Syrian Army, one of the first unified opposition outfits born from the protests preceding the conflict to extremist groups like the al-Qaida linked al-Nusra, which has numerous foreign fighters in its ranks.