Regime, Russian air raids resume on Syria's Idlib

11 September, 2018, 18:17 | Author: Sue Mclaughlin
  • Intense air raids reported on edge of Syria's rebel-held Idlib

Damascus, backed by allies Russian Federation and Iran, has been preparing a major assault to recover Idlib and adjacent areas of northwest Syria from rebels. Turkey, which also has troops in Syria, strongly opposes the upcoming offensive in Idlib, primarily because the assault would trigger another wave of refugees into its country.

In another village in central Idlib, Hass, an area hospital was hit by the airstrikes, putting it out of service and injuring two of its staff members, according to Coordinators of Response, a group of volunteers operating in northern Syria.

On Friday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said his country could no longer afford to take in any more refugees from Syria.

Erdogan said that a focus on the potential use of chemical weapons alone was not enough.

"A regime assault [in Idlib] would also create serious humanitarian and security risks for Turkey, the rest of Europe and beyond", he added.

He recalled the regime's acts - arbitrary arrests, systematic torture, summary executions, barrel bombs, chemical and conventional weapons - which targeted the Syrian people for seven years.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights described the airstrikes as the "most intense" since August when government forces began targeting the southern edge of Idlib province.

The Observatory said Saturday that some 2,000 people were already on the move from areas being bombed, heading deeper into Idlib province. The Russian and Syrian governments claim that the rebels - not Assad - plan to launch a chemical weapons attack.

Idlib is estimated to be now home to about three million civilians, including one million children, many of whom have already fled fighting elsewhere in Syria, or have been evacuated there under resettlement deals, as well as tens of thousands of fighters.

"We've tried to convey the message in recent days that if there's a third use of chemical weapons, the response will be much stronger", John Bolton said, while fielding questions after a policy speech.

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

"There needs to be ways of dealing with this problem that don't turn the next few months in Idlib into the worst humanitarian catastrophe with the biggest loss of life of the 21st Century", he said.

It was the second day of bombardment on the jihadist and rebel-held province and adjacent areas, after key powerbrokers in Tehran failed to reach a deal to avert a government assault.

Yeni Safak daily claimed that the Turkish army has kept more than 50,000 FSA terrorists on alert in Afrin, Azaz, Jarabulus, al-Bab and al-Rai regions to further sent them to battle against the Syrian government forces' operation in Idlib province.

In an article in the United States daily Wall Street Journal published on Tuesday, Erdogan echoed the UN's concerns on a potential humanitarian crisis, adding that an attack on the last rebel-held province would affect Turkey, Europe and beyond.

The rebel-held region of Idlib and adjacent areas are home to nearly three million people, half of whom have been displaced from other areas in the country, according to the UN. "That's something we're monitoring very closely", said David Swanson of the UN's humanitarian coordination agency (OCHA) in Amman.

Many made a dash for Syria's northern border with Turkey, with just under half seeking refuge in displacement camps and others living with local families or renting apartments.

The group also said the airstrikes caused a limited amount of internal displacement, uprooting almost 700 families from their homes in several parts of Idlib.

TRT World's Sara Firth reports on the looming humanitarian crisis.

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