As Idlib offensive looms, Syrians flee to border villages

As Idlib offensive looms, Syrians flee to border villages

As Idlib offensive looms, Syrians flee to border villages

"Idlib is the last exit before the toll", Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, warning an assault for the neighboring province would have disastrous consequences.

Turkey, which has recently sent reinforcements to its borders to prevent the influx of more refugees, now hosts more than three million Syrians.

Turkey has renewed calls for global backing for a ceasefire in Idlib, telling the United Nations security council that an all-out assault on Syria's rebel-held province would trigger a huge wave of refugees and could threaten Europe.

Although the presence of Turkish forces in Idlib could complicate Damascus' plans to retake the province and risk direct military confrontation between Turkey and Syria, the Syrian government has insisted it will liberate Idlib even if Erdogan does not withdraw his forces.

In another village in central Idlib, Hass, an area hospital was hit by the airstrikes, putting it out of service and injuring two of its staff members, according to Coordinators of Response, a group of volunteers operating in northern Syria.

Bolton's comments come on the heels of the revelation that the Defense Department is drawing up options for possible military action against Assad as Russian and Syrian airstrikes began pummeling the last remaining rebel stronghold in the country.

During his remarks, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia repeated the claim that "Syria has no chemical weapons", and said it would be folly on a humanitarian and political basis for the Assad regime to use chemical weapons, as it would prompt the United States and others to attack inside Syria.

On Friday, Russian air strikes killed four hardline rebels and a shepherd in Idlib province, the Observatory said. Turkey has taken in 3.5 million refugees from its neighbor. "We need a quick solution or our town will burn!" the official pleaded in an audio recording shared on social media groups.

Now, the use of chemical weapons is a "red line" that, if crossed, will trigger USA and European military response.

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

Saoud said years of war had already forced them to flee many times before, first from their hometown in Hama province, then to live as refugees in neighboring Jordan.

"We don't want Idlib to turn into a bloodbath", he said.

"I can say we've been in consultations with the British and the French who have joined us in the second strike and they also agree that another use of chemical weapons will result in a much stronger response".

In recent weeks, regime troops have massed around the northwestern region held by jihadists of Al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate as well as rival rebels.

But the government and Russian raids targeted a wide swath of rebel-held area in the southern edge of the rebel-held enclave that includes most of Idlib province and northern Hama province.

Turkey regards the presence of its troops inside Idlib as a deterrent against a large-scale assault by forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies.

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