Dozens of Syrians take part in a small gathering calling for the fall of the regime, in Idlib. AFP / Omar haj kadour
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Syria is prepared for "open battle" against insurgents in the province where Damascus has been allowing them to gather under cease-fire deals, said the government official in charge of talks that have seen rebels yield swaths of territory.Idlib was also the destination for many of the 35,000 rebel fighters and civilians evacuated from eastern Aleppo last month in a deal brokered by Turkey and Russia, Assad's most powerful ally, after insurgent groups were routed in the city.Ali Haidar, who as national reconciliation minister has been responsible for negotiating local deals, said he expected more accords in coming months to send thousands of fighters to Idlib from areas near Damascus and south of it, as the army advances.Around Damascus, the pace of local deals has picked up in recent months, notably since rebels agreed to leave Daraya southwest of the capital in August for Idlib some 300 km away.Rebels still hold territory in those areas and near Damascus, including Douma in the Eastern Ghouta area.
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