Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) militants are preparing a provocation in the town of Saraqib in the southeastern part of Syria’s Idlib to accuse Russian servicemen of using chemical weapons, the Russian Centre for the Reconciliation of Opposing Sides in Syria revealed on May 17.
“Terrorists from Jebhat al-Nusra [original name of HTS] are preparing a provocation in the Idlib province. According to residents of the Seraqab settlement, al-Nusra militants are preparing a provocation with the use of toxic chemicals and debris of Russian aviation’s ordnance delivered from other Syrian regions. The aim of the provocation is to accuse Russian forces of using chemical weapons against civilians in Idlib,” the Russian Reconciliation Center said in a statement, according to the Russian news agency, TASS.
The center added that HTS militants are planning to film a chemical provocation and distribute it via social media and mainstream media outlets.
Syrian and Russian sources warned on several occasions that Western countries had supplied HTS with toxic materials, including chlorine gas, in order to stage provocations in Idlib.
Most recently, Khalid al-Mahamid, a prominent figure of the Syrian opposition, acknowledged that the terrorist group had received advanced weapon systems, that may include chemical weapons.
“Al-Nusra [the original name of HTS] possess advanced weapons … Maybe chemical weapons … Maybe long-range rockets,” al-Mahamid said in the interview with al-Arabiya al-Hadath on May 11.
Such provocation can be used as a pretext for a military attack by the U.S. and its allies on Damascus government forces, similar to the 2017 Shayrat missile strike and the 2018 missile strikes on Damascus and Homs.