Trump warns Syria, Russia, Iran against Idlib ‘tragedy’


More than half of Idlib is controlled by militants from Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), while much of the rest is held by rebels backed by Turkey.

US officials have warned of a potential humanitarian catastrophe as the Syrian government moves in on the last remaining stronghold of Syrian rebels in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Syrian government warplanes struck the last rebel-held province of the country Tuesday.

On Tuesday Russian and Syrian fighter jets attacked over two dozen locations in rebel-held Idlib, following a three-week long pause in fighting.

The United Nations and aid groups have warned a military campaign could spark one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in a war that has already killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions.

Turkey, Russia and Iran a year ago designated Idlib a so-called "de-escalation zone", but that deal did not cover former Al-Qaeda affiliate HTS. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported nine people killed.

Moscow has accused armed groups in Idlib of sending weaponised drones to attack the Hmeimim airbase that it uses in the adjacent province of Latakia.

Russian Federation first intervened in Syria in 2015, helping to turn the tide of the civil war in favor of President Bashar Assad's forces.

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Despite these claims, Israel and the United States say Iran has been building its military presence in Syria, as well as transferring arms to its Shi'ite allies in neighboring Iraq.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated Russia's position, calling Idlib a "hornets' nest of terrorists".

"Our cooperation with Russian Federation now is very important", he said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to have a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly during the last week of September.

Syrian government forces are now massing around the northwestern province in preparation for the assault.

"Such an attack would be a reckless escalation of an already tragic conflict and would risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of people", said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, warning the USA and its allies "will respond swiftly and appropriately".

Western countries rushed to blame the incident on Damascus, with the U.S. launching a missile attack against Shayrat Airbase in Syria's Homs Province on April 7, 2017. The US, UK, and France launched joint missile strikes on Syrian targets in response.