Published: Tue, September 11, 2018
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

Syria: White Helmets clear rubble after reported regime bombing

Syria: White Helmets clear rubble after reported regime bombing

A leading United Nations official warned on Monday that a Syrian regime offensive on an opposition province could spark the "worst humanitarian crisis" of the 21st century.

Idlib residents hope Turkey's presence in the province might prevent a major assault by regime forces and Ankara's relationship with Iran and Russian Federation could lead to a new ceasefire.

The leaders of regime allies Russian Federation and Iran met with the president of rebel backer Turkey in Tehran on Friday, but failed to reach an agreement to avoid a military assault.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said dozens of Russian air raids hit southern and south-eastern areas of Idlib on Saturday.

HTS and rebels are also present in adjacent areas of the neighbouring provinces of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia.

USA 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 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 United States 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".

But Russian President Vladimir Putin this week called for the "total annihilation of terrorists in Syria", while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke of "cleansing the Idlib region of terrorists".

Attacks were reported in Jarjanaz, Hass and Hish in the Ma'arrat al-Numan district of Idlib as well as Lataminah in Hama. Any fight against terrorists requires methods based on time and patience. The summit came to nothing and Putin declared the defeat of terrorism in Idlib was "inevitable".

Witnesses said hundreds of families had begun fleeing from villages and towns in southern Idlib that have been the target of heavy strikes closer to camps near the Turkish border.

"Russia is reminding Turkey it needs to stay in Russia's good graces if Turkey wants to avoid a painful catastrophe in north-west Syria", Mr Heras told Agence France-Presse.

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Various so-called "de-escalation zones" were agreed among the three guarantor powers in Syria as a result of multiple rounds of talks, including Idlib. Turkey has troops and 12 observations points that circle Idlib.

The US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley warned on Friday of dire consequences if Idlib was attacked.

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.

"We urge Russian Federation to consider its options carefully".

Christy Delafield of Mercy Corps, one of the largest organizations delivering aid in Syria, said it has been hard for aid workers and communities to keep up with the displacement.

On Monday, a senior Turkish member of parliament said that the government in Ankara had no plans to open the border wall to allow Syrian refugees to cross into Turkey. The Observatory said the clashes left 10 government security personnel and seven Kurdish fighters dead. Clashes rarely erupt there over turf control and authority, and are usually a reflection of deepening political tension between the uneasy partners.

The UN has said as many as 800,000 people could be displaced by a regime assault on Idlib and surrounding areas. Many fear conscription or arrest.

The rescuers said another was killed in Halba, a village farther north.

There was no immediate word about the clashes from the government.

The Kurdish-led administration control almost 30 percent of Syria, mostly in the northeastern part of the country, including some of Syria's largest oil fields. They seized the territories, with the backing of the US-led coalition, after driving out ISIS militants.

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