Syria's Idlib could face worst catastrophe this century

Blanche Robertson
September 14, 2018

An estimated 3 million people live in Idlib - the last major stronghold of active opposition to President Bashar al-Assad.

On Sunday, government forces bombed the village of Hobeit in Idlib province, killing an infant girl and wounding several other civilians, the Syrian Civil Defence search-and-rescue group reported.

Turkey is willing to cooperate with Assad allies Russian Federation and Iran in rooting out terrorists in the region, which is home to some 3 million people, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday.

Russian ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia argued at the same Security Council meeting that there is a need to fight terrorists in Idlib.

Idlib's main towns and cities are under the sway of jihadists linked to al Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, though they are outnumbered by Turkey-backed FSA fighters grouped under "The National Front for Liberation".

"In Idlib, we have to employ different approaches that require time and patience", he said, reiterating that there could be no military victory in Syria.

"In order for our efforts to succeed, guarantees must be given to civilians and moderate opposition groups that they will not be targeted once they separate from terrorists", Sinirlioglu said.

"The consequences of inaction are enormous".

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U.S. officials have in recent days said additional action would follow if Assad were to use the banned weapons in rebel-held Idlib.

She also said that "Russia has the power to stop the catastrophe looming in Idlib". "We will know that the Assad regime and its enablers are serious about a political process for peace in Syria not when they repeat their empty promises, but when they act".

The presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russian Federation met in Tehran on Friday but failed to agree on a ceasefire in Idlib.

"To recapture eastern Ghouta in April, government forces launched numerous indiscriminate attacks in densely populated civilian areas, which included the use of chemical weapons", it said. The worldwide community fears Assad and his allies are preparing to carry out a final assault on the province. They are believed to be holding them in the Safaa area.

Russia's Nebenzia responded saying attempts to separate the three Astana guarantors "will not be successful".

One source close to the White House told Al-Monitor that the USA administration was resigned to the Syrian offensive and acknowledged there were few options to stop it.

"They pledged complete Turkish military support for a long, protracted battle", a senior FSA commander who was privy to talks in recent days with senior Turkish officials said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorized to speak publicly.

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