‘Worst crisis’ of the century: 30,000 people flee Syria in September alone

The Turkish president said a new wave of refugees could head to Europe in the wake of an attack

The Turkish president said a new wave of refugees could head to Europe in the wake of an attack Credit AREF TAMMAWI AFP Getty Images

"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, of the 21st century", said Mark Lowcock, the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator. "No matter what type of weapons or methods are used, the United States strongly opposes any escalation of violence in Idlib".

"We can not envisage Russian Federation bombing Turkey's military presence in Idlib", Selcen said.

"I call on everyone to raise their voices against the Syrian regime's aggression and find a peaceful solution", Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday in Romania, where he held talks with his Romanian and Polish counterparts.

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.

Since the beginning of this month, at least 30 civilians have been killed in Idlib and Hama - and dozens injured - by airstrikes and attacks by the regime and Russian warplanes, according to the White Helmets civil defense organization.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been trying to stave off an attack on Idlib Credit Kayhan Ozer Anadolu Agency Getty Images

On Friday Turkey's President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, held a summit with Russia's Vladmir Putin and Hassan Rouhani of Iran, the other key ally of the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, and urged them to accept a truce to avert a "bloodbath".

Meanwhile, the US-led coalition against Isil said it had launched the final phase of Operation Roundup, an offensive by Western-backed fighters to push the jihadists out of northeastern Syria.

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

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Tuesday also called on global allies to work together in Syria's Idlib with efforts to prevent civilian casualties.

Russia's Defense Ministry says the foreign-backed Takfiri militants have abducted children from Syria's Aleppo to use them in a staged chemical weapons attack in Idlib to be blamed on the Syrian government.

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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 U.S. and others to attack inside Syria.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Erdogan said the West had an "obligation to stop the next bloodshed" but that regime allies Moscow and Tehran were "likewise responsible for stopping this humanitarian disaster".

Haley warned Assad and his allies that any assault on Idlib would be considered "reckless" by the U.S. and "the consequences will be dire".

He called for a "comprehensive global counter-terrorism operation" and said that the assistance of pro-Ankara moderate fighters will be "crucial" in Idlib.

Russian Federation and Iran insisted that a military offensive in Idlib would be a counter-terrorism operation and that measures would be taken to spare civilians. "If Assad, Russia, and Iran continue down the path they are on, the consequences will be dire. That's something we're monitoring very closely", OCHA spokesman David Swanson told AFP.

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

In the northwest province of Idlib - where the United Nations fears a major imminent assault by Syrian and Russian forces against the last rebel-held stronghold - chlorine was also used on February 4, the U.N. report said.

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

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