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Airstrikes hit Syria's Idlib province, the last remaining rebel stronghold

09 September, 2018, 04:25 | Author: Lucille Rivera
  • A general view taken with a drone shows part of the rebel-held Idlib city

The widely anticipated offensive has drawn worldwide concern.

The UN Security Council met to discuss Idlib late on September 7 at the request of the United States, with the UN's Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura saying there are "all the ingredients for a flawless storm" in Idlib.

"These commanders, these units, will be held accountable by the worldwide community", said Karen Pierce, the British ambassador to the UN.

"The dangers are profound that any battle for Idlib could be, would be a horrific and bloody battle", de Mistura said.

During a meeting of the UN Security Council in NY, the United Kingdom named individual Syrian regime commanders around Idlib and warned them they could face future war crimes charges if they went ahead with the attack.

The humanitarian impact has been staggering.

Thousands of refugees had fled to Turkey after the regime assault targeting Aleppo in 2016.

In a series of tweets following a trilateral summit with the leaders of Russian Federation and Iran in Tehran, Erdogan said resorting to methods that would disregard civilian lives would "play into the hands of terrorists".

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said here on Friday that Turkey would not allow bloodshed to take place in the northern Syrian province of Idlib. The influx of defeated fighters and their families to the Idlib dumping ground saw the local population nearly double from 1.5 million to almost 3 million.

Putin ominously accused Western forces of protecting terrorists and faking chemical weapons attacks to discredit the Syrian regime. According to United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura, Idlib now hosts about 10,000 militants from the Jabhat al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda terror groups (both outlawed in Russia).

They're outgunned by the regime, which has Russian and Iranian support. "Millions will be coming to Turkey's borders because they have nowhere to go".

The trilateral summit in Tehran between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had been viewed as a chance for a diplomatic solution before unleashing a full-scale assault on Syria's northwestern Idlib province.

Airstrikes hammered rebel positions in Idlib as the summit got underway.

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Speaking at the joint news conference with Putin and Rouhani, Erdogan called for an end to deaths in Syria.

"Russia's message is clear", argues Mr. Yetkın. "But we can not speak on their behalf and [even less so on behalf of] Jabhat al-Nusra, IS terrorists, that they will stop their attacks, that they will stop using their drones". Much to Ankara's anger, the other de-escalation zones were overrun by Syrian government forces and Russian airpower, the fate now awaiting Idlib.

"At one extreme, Turkey can choose to defend Idlib militarily, directly and/or through its proxies", says Faysal Itani, resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

The Observatory said Saturday that some 2,000 people were already on the move from areas being bombed, heading deeper into Idlib province.

They said Syrian helicopters dropped barrel bombs on civilian homes.

Although Putin demanded the "total annihilation of terrorists in Syria" and Rouhani urged "cleansing the Idlib region of terrorists" - by which the two authoritarian leaders mean all forces opposed to Assad - they acknowledged the importance of minimizing civilian casualties and did not completely rule out the possibility of ceasefire negotiations.

The three leaders are expected to determine the future of Idlib amid growing fears of a humanitarian disaster.

The Tehran meetings could determine the scale and the timeline of the Idlib offensive, which the United Nations has warned may displace 800,000 people. "Any attack on Idlib would result in a catastrophe. They only real disincentive is a military conflict with Turkey, but even that may not be enough". "We need to find a rational solution in Idlib that will address everyone's concerns".

On two separate occasions this month (Sept. 1 and September 6), the Russian military warned its American counterparts of its intension to conduct a military operation in southern Syria near the At Tanf garrison where USA special operations forces are located. "We hope that the representatives of these terrorist organizations have enough common sense to surrender their weapons", he told reporters after the talks. At least 74 people died. "Russian jet fighters and the regime ground forces can not afford attacks while Turkish soldiers are there", Kalin said.

The Syrian government has denied ever using chemical weapons.

However, Trump has yet to make a public statement regarding this new policy shift and it is unclear whether Trump has actually thrown his weight behind it, given that the Post quoted Jeffrey as saying only, "I am confident the president is on board with this".

"There are no civilians left at all in the targeted villages", Hasan Younis, a member of the White Helmets emergency medical team based in southern Idlib province, said to ABC News.

"I am not aware of such a message being passed", he adds.

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