Thursday, 20 September, 2018

Militant Warns Erdogan Against 'Selling Idlib' Ahead of Syrian Army Offensive

Syria’s Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar al-Jaafari Syria’s Ambassador to the United Nations Bashar al-Jaafari
Andrew Cummings | 12 September, 2018, 01:54

The Wall Street Journal has just published a bombshell on Sunday evening as Russian and Syrian warplanes continue bombing raids over al-Qaeda held Idlib, citing unnamed U.S. officials who claim "President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has approved the use of chlorine gas in an offensive against the country's last major rebel stronghold".

The United Nations warned Monday that a large-scale military operation against the rebel-held province could create "the worst humanitarian catastrophe with the biggest loss of life in the 21st century".

Idlib is largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance led by Al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate, as well as rival rebels.

Air raids and shelling of southern Idlib and northern Hama provinces escalated over the past week after Moscow and Tehran rejected a Turkish ceasefire proposal at a trilateral summit held in the Iranian capital on September 7.

The three countries had failed to reach an agreement for a ceasefire, however, prompting Sweden and other nations to again warn of a "humanitarian catastrophe" should the Syria government, backed by Russian Federation, wage a military offensive on Idlib, where millions are at risk.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton said the US, Britain and France had agreed another use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government would result in a "much stronger response" compared to previous air strikes. Representatives of Russia, Turkey and Iran, meet with the UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria to discuss the situation in Syria.

The world can not leave Syrian people to the mercy of Bashar Assad as his regime only seeks to wipe out its opposition in Idlib with its latest offensive, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in an opinion piece to Wall Street Journal published on Monday.

The Trump administration has warned for days about an expected assault on Idlib, the last major stronghold for rebels fighting in Syria, while urging Syrian leader Bashar Assad and his allies not to use chemical weapons.

A militant from an unspecified group stationed in Idlib has issued a threat to Turkish President Recep Tayyip, warning that militants in northwestern Syria have dug a tunnel stretching into Turkey's Hatay province.

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The footage was filmed by several Middle Eastern news channel crews and one unnamed US broadcaster, the Defense Ministry said.

More than three million people have fled to Idlib and as many as 70,000 opposition fighters are dug in there.

An influx of displaced people has roughly doubled the Idlib region's population to around 2.9 million people in recent years.

Russian Federation and Iran backed a military offensive to reclaim the last major rebel-held area of Syria, while Turkey called for a ceasefire to prevent mass casualties among the province's estimated 3.5 million population.

The Observatory described the attacks on the rebel-held areas as the "most intense" since August and said they killed four in Abdeen, west of Khan Sheikhoun town, including two children and a woman.

Mr Swanson said that since Friday, mortar and rocket attacks had increased, especially in the northern Hama countryside and southern Idlib rural areas.

Speaking at the Security Council, Mrs Haly said the United States considered an assault on Idlib to be "a risky escalation of the conflict in Syria". Russia's military intervention three years ago turned the tide in Assad's favor at a time when he held less than a quarter of his country's territory.

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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