On Monday, September 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan agreed to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib province between Syrian government and rebel forces. The creation of the zone - to be supervised by both Russian and Turkish forces and in effect from October 15 - is anticipated to postpone a previously expected Russia-backed Syrian government offensive on rebel-held areas of the province. The precise location of the buffer zone, slated to be between 15-25 km (9-15 mi) wide, has not yet been announced; it is not clear if Idlib city will be included in the buffer zone. Heavy weapons and Islamist militant rebels, including from Hay'at Tahrir Al-Sham, will reportedly be required to leave the areas within the proposed buffer zone before it comes into effect.
The recent escalation in Syrian government and Russian airstrikes and increasing tensions in Idlib province and adjacent areas has displaced over 38,500 people since the beginning of September.
The UN along with several other countries have warned that a full-scale offensive on Idlib province and surrounding rebel-held areas could result in a humanitarian crisis. An estimated 3 million people live in the area, half of which are reportedly displaced from other areas affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria.
To date, the Syrian conflict involves many parties, including the Syrian government, the Russian government, the Iranian government, the Turkish government, a US-led coalition, and numerous armed groups on the ground (including the Islamic State) with competing goals.
Due to extremely poor security conditions, Western governments generally advise against all travel to Syria, with some banning travel to the country. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to any travel to Syria.
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