Air blitz on Idlib raises fears of fears of imminent assault

12 September, 2018, 01:54 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • Vladimir Putin Hassan Rouhani and Tayyip Erdogan

Syrian government and Russian warplanes on Saturday targeted the southern edge of Idlib province in what activists described as the most intense airstrikes in weeks, ratcheting up military pressure on the densely populated rebel-held bastion.

United States officials have said in recent days they have evidence that Syrian regime forces are preparing chemical weapons ahead of a planned assault on an opposition and rebel-held enclave in Idlib in the northwestern part of the country.

The renewed strikes came a day after Syrian regime allies Russian Federation and Iran and Turkey, a supporter of Syrian rebel factions, disagreed on the fate of the province at a summit in Tehran.

Idlib province and adjacent rural areas form the largest piece of territory still held by Syria's beleaguered rebels, worn down by a succession of government victories in recent months.

It said a military offensive could trigger the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century. "I won't give you more details, but this is your warning", the militant said in video footage circulating on social media.

A convoy of aid vehicles drives in Syria's Idlib province as they head to the government-controlled towns of Fuaa and Kafraya to deliver aid on 11 January.

In a recent discussion about Syria, people familiar with the exchange said, President Trump threatened to conduct a massive attack against Mr. Assad if he carries out a massacre in Idlib, the northwestern province that has become the last refuge for more than three million people and as many as 70,000 opposition fighters that the regime considers to be terrorists.

OCHA spokesman David Swanson told Reuters that as of Sunday, 30,542 people had been displaced from northwest Syria, moving to different areas across Idlib.

State-run Al-Ikhbariya TV said the government was retaliating against overnight shelling from rebel-held areas on a government-held town in Hama province, south of Idlib.


"It is a very major preoccupation for us", he said.

Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock's comments in Geneva came days after Iran and Russian Federation backed a military campaign in the rebel-held area despite Turkey's pleas for a cease-fire.

"Perhaps Putin has come to the conclusion that the gap between Turkey and the West has reached an unbridgeable distance, and that he can disregard Ankara's wishes regarding Idlib because he sees that Turkey has nowhere to go in addition to being ever-more dependent on Russian Federation and Iran for energy", he said.

But half the people here have already fled from other parts of Syria and they have nowhere left to go.

"Getting smuggled across is nearly impossible, and there have been several cases of displaced people being shot dead while trying to enter Turkey illegally", Rifai said.

"We had come (to Idlib) without anything", he said.

Turkey's president on Monday urged the worldwide community to be aware of its responsibilities in Syria as an assault on Idlib looms.

More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's civil war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-Assad protests.

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