>> In villages like this one in Syria's northern Idlib province, observation posts set up by Turkish troops are seen as protection. The villages' entire population fled earlier this year when pro-government forces mounted an offensive into nearby areas. Many only returned once the Turks arrived, part of an agreement with President Assad's Russian and Iranian allies.
But this area is the last major rebel stronghold. And people living here are waiting in fear of a government offensive. Reuters correspondent Tom Perry covers Syria from Beirut.>> In the village of Serman, residents have told Reuters that they are bracing for the worst in anticipation of a Syrian government offensive.
The local economy is grinding to a halt, and factories are shutting down. Rebels are meanwhile preparing for the possibility of an attack. One commander thought this was a 90% probability, once the Syrian government has finished its campaign in southwestern Syria.>> Displaced Syrians fleeing from other parts of the country are pouring into Idlib.
And across the border, Turkey is nervously watching. A showdown here could have huge consequences. The UN is warning that up to t2,500,000 people could flee towards Turkish territory.>> Turkey is pressing Russia to make sure this doesn't happen. And Russian priorities will be crucial to deciding what happens next.
Will it respect Turkish wishes or won't it? Turkey with NATO's second biggest army has yet to say what it would do in the event of an Idlib offensive. And according to one recent report, Turkey is seeking to maintain Idlib within its sphere of influence, through new arrangements.>> President Assad is unlikely to give Turkey what it wants.
The leader has vowed to take back every inch of Syria. Assad sees Turkey as an illegal occupier.