Turkey warns attack on Syria’s Idlib would cause humanitarian disaster

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According to the Russian defence ministry, Middle Eastern and U.S. television networks have already sent operatives into northern Syria to stage and film a fake chemical attack ahead of an expected Russian and Syrian government operation in Idlib, billed as the last major battle of the civil war.

President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to retake it, backed by his Russian and Iranian allies, but the United Nations has warned that an offensive could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe, potentially uprooting 800,000 people.

The opposition accuses Russian Federation and its allies of striking at hospitals and civil defence centres to force rebels to surrender in a repeat of earlier, large-scale military offensives. "Every day, I need water, hay and bran to feed them".

"Some even said that they are preparing to die as Idlib is the last safe place for many of them".

Idlib is home to some three million people - about half of them displaced by fighting in other parts of the country during the war, now in its eighth year, according to the UN.

"Russia has the power to stop the catastrophe looming in Idlib", she said.

Russia, Turkey and Iran have been working together as "guarantors" for a series of talks around ending Syria's war.

Meanwhile the bombs keep falling.

President Donald Trump's national security adviser said on Monday the United States, Britain and France had agreed that another use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would result in a "much stronger response" compared to previous air strikes.

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On Monday, its humanitarian chief made an urgent appeal.

"Idlib province is.a sort of zone of responsibility of Turkey; it is their responsibility to separate the moderate opposition from the extremists, from Jabhat al-Nusra and other groups, other terrorist groups", he said.

But there is a further obstacle; the strip of land between Turkey-controlled Afrin and Idlib is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a former al-Qaeda affiliate.

The escalating bombardment has already damaged civilian infrastructure.

Senior officials from Russia, Iran and Turkey met with UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura in Geneva Tuesday.

Russia, Iran and Turkey held a summit in Tehran last week to discuss the Assad regime's reported plan to use military force to restore Damascus' control over Idlib, where three million people live.

Moscow wants to keep rebels from using weaponised drones against Russian warplanes positioned nearby.

Turkey, which now hosts some 3.5 million refugees, has also said that it could not accommodate any more migrants if an attack on Idlib caused a new surge of refugees towards its border.

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