Chinese warships, fighter jets and bombers took part in the big, week-long Russian naval exercise in the eastern Mediterranean that ended on Saturday, Sept. 8, DEBKAfile’s military sources reveal. It was the first time that Beijing took any military role in the seven-year Syrian war, a development that has been kept under close wraps by Moscow, Washington and Jerusalem. Our military sources report that 3,500 Chinese marines are on standby for flights to Syria to join the Russian-Iranian-Syrian campaign for retaking Idlib province from rebel hands. They will fly through Russia. Beijing owns a special interest in this campaign in view of the strong presence among the jihadist groups holed up in Idlib of several thousand Uighur Islamists from Xinjiang, who are members of the banned Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP), Al Qaeda’s branch in China.