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Idlib offensive could spark 21st century's worst humanitarian catastrophe, United Nations says

14 September 2018, 03:32 | Darnell Patrick

Idlib offensive could spark 21st century's worst humanitarian catastrophe, United Nations says

Turkey deploys military vehicles to Syria

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said an all-out military assault on the last major stronghold of active opposition to President Bashar al-Assad could set 800,000 people to flight. "The world will hold them responsible", she added.

Turkey has continued to provide humanitarian relief to opposition areas in Idlib and Latakia - situated in Syria's north - and operates a number of military observation posts in the province.

A second rebel commander said: "They are getting new shipments of munitions - they don't need more than munitions".

Mark Lowcock, the UN's new humanitarian chief, warned on Monday that a large-scale military operation against Idlib could create "the worst humanitarian catastrophe" of this century.

Fighters from a coalition of Islamist forces celebrate on after taking the al-Mastumah base in the Syrian city of Idlib.

"The consequences of inaction are huge".

The Russian military said the footage would include scenes of White Helmets operatives treating supposed victims of an apparent barrel bomb chemical weapon attack by Damascus.

High-level diplomats from Iran, Russia and Turkey are meeting the United Nations envoy for Syria about creating a committee to revise the war-battered country's constitution.

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Erdogan's comments came just four days after meeting with his Iranian and Russian counterparts in Tehran to develop a strategy to protect Idlib's civilians, where Erdogan failed to achieve his goal, a ceasefire in the province which is home to almost 3 million people.

"The United States is long past taking Russian Federation and Iran at their word that they are genuinely interested in protecting civilians in Idlib from further violence", Haley said.

Haley said the failed summit was another indication that Russia, Iran and the Assad regime are not interested in a political solution, telling the council that those parties have "had every opportunity to demonstrate their credibility as constructive actors in Syria".

Syrian government forces, backed by Russian Federation and Iran, have been massing troops for weeks around Idlib in preparation for an attack. "That's something we're monitoring very closely", OCHA spokesman David Swanson told AFP.

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.

Some three million people live in the zone now, about half of them already displaced by the brutal seven-year war and others heavily dependent on humanitarian aid to survive.

"When we speak to Syrians who have already been displaced three, five, even six times, they themselves say there is nowhere to go".



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