Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, warned on March 15 that Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) is preparing to stage a chemical weapons provocation in Syria’s Idlib.
“There are alarming reports, which say that members of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terror group, together with the White Helmets, are getting ready to stage chemical agent attacks, planning to accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons,” Zakharova at a press briefing, according to the Russian news agency, TASS.
Between 2012 and 2017, HTS operated as the main branch of al-Qaeda in Syria under the name the al-Nusra Front. Despite changing its name in late 2017, the groups structure, including its leadership, remained the same.
Zakharova said that HTS is now establishing weapons caches in Aleppo, Idlib, Lattakia and Hama. The terrorist group had imposed its control of most of the opposition-held parts of these governorates earlier this year.
Two days ago, Russian warplanes destroyed several ammo depots of HTS inside the city of Idlib and in its outskirt. The Russian Ministry of Defense said that the aerial operation prevented the terrorist group from launching a drone attack on the Syrian coast.
The new Russian warning was not a surprise as HTS is known for possessing several toxic materials, including chlorine gas. According to several reports, the terrorist group could stage a chemical attack with these material in order to provoke Western military strike on government forces.