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Russia ‘to fight terrorists in Syria until their obliteration’

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova

Russia has stressed that it will continue to fight terrorist forces in Syria until “their total elimination,” as a full-scale liberation operation against remaining militants concentrated in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib draws close.

“We consider it Russia’s duty to strictly adhere to the agreements [concerning the de-escalation zone in Idlib], and it will continue the fight against terrorists until their ultimate and total elimination,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said at a press conference in the capital, Moscow, on Wednesday, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.

Zakharova’s comments came a few hours after the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that its fighter jets had bombed the positions of the Takfiri Jabhat Fateh al-Sham terrorist group — formerly known as al-Nusra Front — in Idlib. It also dismissed allegations that the strikes had struck civilian areas.

Zakharova, too, stressed that the airstrikes were hitting terrorist positions only.

“The Russian Aerospace Forces are conducting strikes on Idlib not for ‘aggressive’ purposes, but for exterminating terrorist objects that are used in the increasing attacks on the Syrian army’s positions and the civilian population, as well as in the attacks on the Russian military, whose presence in Syria is requested by the lawful government of the country,” she said.

Russia started an aerial bombardment campaign against militants in Syria on a request from Syria’s elected government in September 2015.

Together with Iranian advisory military assistance, the Russian campaign has helped the Syrian military retake almost the entire country from militants. Idlib is a final flash point, where a mix of militant groups has been shuttled to under previous agreements.

Early this week, US President Donald Trump, whose country has had unauthorized military presence in Syria for several years, claimed the offensive on Idlib would lead to a humanitarian crisis.

This is while the Russian and Syrian militaries are only targeting militant positions.

Russia flatly dismissed Trump’s claim.

Elsewhere in her Wednesday remarks, Zakharova said Moscow found the calls to suspend the offensive on terrorists in Idlib for an unspecified amount of time “unacceptable.”

“All this imploring comes down to this: leaving the terrorists holding millions of people hostage in Idlib... indefinitely, and it is unacceptable,” she said, stressing that there could be no “peace” as long as terrorists were still in Idlib.

Terrorists “cannot be allowed the opportunity to export terror across the region and the whole world, while remaining in safety,” Zakharova said.

She said Russia’s partners “should not hinder this process by contradictory signals,” in an apparent reference to the US.

Apart from Idlib, Takfiri militants are also in control of some areas of the west-central province of Hama, and are holding some desert regions near the border with Turkey.

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