Opposition groups in Syria's Idlib province on Wednesday announced the formation of a new military coalition as Bashar Assad signaled for an offensive on the northwestern region.
The National Liberation Front, which was formed by 11 opposition groups in 2017, merged with the prominent Ahrar al-Sham and Nureddine al-Zinki groups with four other factions.
The coalition will not include Idlib's dominant force, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which is seen as a terrorist group by the United States, Russia and Turkey, as well as many other countries.
Alexander Lavrentiev, Russia's special envoy for Syria, ruled out on Tuesday the possibility of a military offensive to Idlib by the Assad regime. "There's currently no question and can be no question of an operation, of a major assault on Idlib," said Lavrentiev.
The alliance was announced Wednesday by Ahrar al-Sham and Nureddine al-Zinki, who are already merged under the name of the Syrian Liberation Front.
One of the new coalition's objectives will be to "block all attempts by the regime to advance" towards opposition areas, its spokesman Naji Abu Hazifa told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
On June 27, Assad said that Idlib is one of the top priorities of the regime forces. After the threats, Ankara had warned the regime and its allies to refrain from a possible offensive in the province.
On Saturday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, speaking to reporters in Johannesburg after the BRICS summit in South Africa, said that he personally asked Vladimir Putin to take the necessary precautions against possible regime attacks on Idlib.
The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) had established 12 observation posts to maintain stability in the opposition town. Idlib has a population of approximately 2.5 million, and a substantial part of it consists of refugees that came from different parts of the country.
In June, the United Nations said that a possible offensive by the Assad regime may result in the displacement of more than 2 million civilians, adding that the only exit route for those people would be Turkey.