A picture taken on February 15, 2018 shows a Turkish military convoy driving in Idlib. / AFP / OMAR HAJ KADOUR
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The fate of Syria's Idlib will depend on Turkey's ability to keep a lid on the militant-dominated tinderbox and prevent an explosive Russian-backed government offensive on its doorstep, analysts say. Largely outside government control since 2015, the northwestern province is home to some 2.5 million people, including many rebels evacuated there after being defeated in other areas by President Bashar Assad's forces.Since it erupted in 2011, Syria's conflict had drawn in myriad foreign forces, including Russia's air force and Iranian-backed militias on Assad's behalf, and Turkey in support of rebels.Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, a group led by Al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate, dominates Idlib's military scene and civilian infrastructure.The de-escalation is essentially a dead letter and while Russia has no forces on the ground in Idlib, its fighter jets have struck targets in support of regime forces, as they have elsewhere in Syria.Heller agreed that Idlib's fate would likely be determined by the international powers entrenched in Syria's conflict.
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