After successful offensives to retake Daraa and Quneitra provinces in August 2018, the Syrian Government announced that its main concern was now to “liberate” Idlib. Simultaneously, Moscow emphasized that all rebels enclaves in Syria must be terminated since “the hotbed of terrorism that came to be there does not bode well if the current inaction continues.”
The Syrian war has killed more than half a million people according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, displaced more than 11 million since 2011 and has divided the country into various splinter groups vying for areas of control. Idlib province is the last major rebel enclave in Syria. First seized from the government in March 2015, Idlib and the surrounding area is the last important piece of territory in Syria held by rebels. The province also borders Turkey to the north, and encompasses major highways running south from Aleppo to Hama and the capital, Damascus, and west to the Mediterranean coastal city of Latakia.