Syria's Assad Says Offensive to Retake Idilb to Resume Soon

In a wide-ranging interview with Russia's official international broadcaster, Assad commits to free elections in 2021

President Bashar al-Assad (3rd-L) speaking with Syrian army officers in Idlib province, October 22, 2019

Syrian President Bashar Assad says his forces will soon retake control of the last major rebel stronghold in the country's northwestern province of Idlib.

Assad said in an interview with Russia Today aired on Monday that they are now giving civilians some time to leave the area that is dominated by al-Qaida-linked militants.

Syrian troops launched a four-month offensive on the province earlier this year, forcing hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes and capturing the important town of Khan Sheikhoun and several other villages and towns.

A cease-fire stopped the government offensive on Idlib at the end of August but in recent days, opposition activists have reported shelling and airstrikes in the area.

In the hour-long interview on the Russian state-run international network, the leader dealt with a number of topics, including the 2021 Syrian presidential electio

Assad faced two challengers in the 2014 election, which he won by a landslide, but which his opponents dismissed as a charade.

"Last time we were three and this time of course we are going to have as much as they want to nominate. There are going to be numerous nominees," Assad said.