Idlib assault would lead to risks for Europe - Erdogan

Clay Curtis
September 12, 2018

A top United Nations official warned Monday that an attack on rebel-held parts in Syria's Idlib in coming months could lead to this century's worst loss of life as government forces pounded the area from the air and ground.

After several weeks of watching Syrian troops move into frontline positions, supported by Russian aerial bombardments, Turkey seized the initiative over the weekend and began directing hundreds of soldiers and heavy artillery across its border and into neighboring Idlib, creating a stalemate.

Underscoring the necessity of preventing civilian casualties, he further called on Russia, Iran, the US, France and the United Kingdom as well as all other partners and actors in Syria to work together and find a peaceful solution.

A major military operation in Idlib is expected to pose a humanitarian nightmare because there is no nearby opposition territory left in Syria where people could be evacuated to.

Two children were killed in heavy barrel bomb attacks on a village in Idlib's south Sunday, a day after 10 civilians died in shelling across the rebel zone, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said.

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.

De Mistura's spokesman, Michael Contet, said in an email that any debriefing by the envoy about the meeting will be "reserved" for comments that he plans to make to U.N. Security Council next Tuesday.

In the article, Erdogan said "All members of the worldwide community must understand their responsibilities as the assault on Idlib looms".

Wreckage at a site of a civilian hospital following Syrian government airstrikes in the town of Hass, Rural Idlib Alhnobi, Syria, Sept. 8, 2018.

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US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned Russian Federation and Iran of "dire consequences" if they continue airstrikes against the last rebel-held area in Syria and said the US would respond to any use of chemical weapons.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said in an article in the Wall Street Journal that a Syrian government offensive in Idlib would cause humanitarian and security risks for Turkey, Europe and beyond. "The consequences of inaction are immense" Erdogan said.

U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley accused the regime's main backers of escalating the violence in Idlib province and using terrorist tactics.

"It is a disgusting tactic of terrorists, not professional soldiers", she said.

Haley said the Trump administration hasn't seen any actions "to indicate that Russia, Iran and Assad are interested in a political solution". "The world will hold them responsible", she added.

"We're deeply concerned about this recent escalation of violence, which has resulted in the displacement of over 30,000 in the area".

The United Nations has warned of a major humanitarian catastrophe if the offensive takes place in the enclave where some three million people live - about half of whom have already been displaced in the seven-year war.

Pierce said the council faces "a choice", between a Syrian regime and Russian "military assault on Idlib in which, as many colleagues have said today, thousands of civilians will die", or "we allow Turkey and opposition groups the support, space and time to separate out the terrorists and tackle them themselves".

The security source said Turkey was preparing more camps, but said discussions were still continuing about the scale of the aid operation inside Syria.

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