United Nations warns 30,000 already displaced from Syria's Idlib


The Kremlin's disinformation campaign is ramping up ahead of the planned Russian and Syrian government operation in Idlib, billed as the last major battle of the Syrian war.

Idlib is estimated to be now home to about three million civilians, including one million children, many of whom have already fled fighting elsewhere in Syria, or have been evacuated there under resettlement deals, as well as tens of thousands of fighters.

Britain and France backed the call for a ceasefire, recalling that these had been agreed under arrangements for a "de-escalation zone" in Idlib that were overseen by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

"There needs to be ways of dealing with this problem that don't turn the next few months in Idlib into the worst humanitarian catastrophe with the biggest loss of life in the 21st century", Mark Lowcock told reporters in Geneva.

"We are saying the situation in Idlib should be settled most preferably in a peaceful way".

Russian Federation has said it wants all militants to be pushed out of Idlib and that it avoids civilians and targets only radical al Qaeda-inspired groups. "We can not leave the Syrian people to the mercy of Bashar Assad", Erdogan wrote in the WSJ.

"The Syrian regime seeks to legitimize its operation on counter-terrorism grounds".

In Idlib, civilians and fighters have been scrambling to prepare for the looming offensive. While Moscow claimed it intervened to combat terrorists, specifically ISIS, an analysis in May 2018 by IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center found that just 14 per cent of Russian airstrikes actually targeted the group.

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.

Assad's forces began amassing in the areas of Idlib already under its control and on its southern and eastern flanks.

With extensive Turkish support, efforts have been underway to organize FSA groups north of Aleppo into a unified force known as the "National Army" numbering some 30,000 fighters.

"President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province".

The United Nations Security Council has been briefed several times, since the tripartite talks in Tehran failed to reach a ceasefire agreement.

Haley said the Trump administration hasn't seen any actions "to indicate that Russia, Iran and Assad are interested in a political solution".

"I can say we've been in consultation with the British and the French, who joined us in the second strike, and they also agree that another use of chemical weapons will result in a much stronger response", Bolton said. "And no number of Security Council meetings will ever change that".