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After warnings of mass murder and catastrophe in Idlib, I prowled the front lines for two days...

•, Robert Fisk

Every journalist would like to start a report with the words: "All quiet on the western front." Or the eastern front. And I had actually scribbled "all quiet on the northern front" in my notebook, on my rural way to the far northern village of Kansabba on Syria's front line opposite Idlib province, when an artillery piece in the forest banged off a shell over our heads. It took 25 seconds for the sound of the explosion – on the hills to the north-east – to echo softly back to us through the trees. Then a second round. And a third. A few Syrian soldiers on motorcycles purred along the road. Front lines are like this. Sunlight, lots of clouds, a winding country lane way, an explosion and then a herd of sheep drift out of a field at the bidding of a cowled shepherd.

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