Ceasefire talks fail as airstrikes target last rebel-held region in Syria

Sukhoi-34 planes

Sukhoi-34 planes

Russian and Syrian warplanes have pounded towns in Syria's opposition-held Idlib province, a day after a summit of the presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russia failed to agree on a ceasefire aimed to forestall a Russian-backed government offensive.

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. The widely anticipated offensive has drawn worldwide concern. The three nations are allied against Islamic State.

"These commanders, these units, will be held accountable by the global community", said Karen Pierce, the British ambassador to the UN.

"The dangers are profound that any battle for Idlib could be, would be, a horrific and bloody battle", Mr.de Mistura said.

America's top general on Saturday said he was involved in "routine dialogue" with the White House about military options should Syria ignore US warnings against using chemical weapons in an expected assault on the enclave of Idlib.

The humanitarian impact has been staggering. Russia's military intervention three years ago turned the tide in President Bashar al-Assad's favor at a time when he held less than a quarter of his country's territory.

Idlib, with a population of 3 million civilians, is largely controlled by the two Islamist militant groups.

The U.S. and its allies, however, believe it is Assad's forces who appear to be preparing a chemical attack in Idlib.

Al-Qaeda-linked rebels, known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, control more than half of Idlib, and much of the Russian and Syrian government rhetoric has focused on a need to defeat the group. Russian Federation and Iran are key allies of Assad, while Turkey supports some of the rebels. "Millions will be coming to Turkey's borders because they have nowhere to go".

Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russia's Vladimir Putin and Iran's Hassan Rouhani discussed the situation in Syria and in the Idlib province in particular as part of the Astana peace process on Friday. Finally, it showed that Turkey needs to be ready for a fresh wave of refugees and that the threat of terrorism is no longer confined to Syria and will be felt "on its own soil, up close and present".

"Russia's message is clear", argues Mr. Yetkın. The US military revealed nearly no details of its plan as the statement said only that it would involve "using the US capabilities to spot the terrorists - even in an urban environment - and take them out with a minimum of civilian casualties".

The Observatory said Saturday that some 2,000 people were already on the move from areas being bombed, heading deeper into Idlib province.

"The shocking civilian death tolls and war crimes witnessed recently in other parts of Syrian such as eastern Aleppo city, Eastern Ghouta and Daraa must not be repeated in Idlib", Samah Hadid, Middle East director of Amnesty International, said. Turkey has troops and 12 observations points that ring Idlib. "Any attack on Idlib would result in a catastrophe".

Itani says he had trouble imagining what a cease-fire would look like.

People in Idlib waved flags and banners as they protested against the expected all-out government offensive. "They only real disincentive is a military conflict with Turkey, but even that may not be enough".

US President Donald Trump warned against a wide-scale operation in Idlib tweeting that "hundreds of thousands might die". The US, Britain and France have vowed to take action against any further chemical attacks by Assad's regime. At least 74 people died.

The plan will also secure the Russian Hmeimim military base in Latakia province, as well as mineral deposits in the region, it said.

In a Twitter thread breaking down the Trump administration's new Syria objectives on Friday, Emma Ashford-a foreign policy research fellow at the Cato Institute-argued that the White House's plan is "not a strategy". "We are very concerned with the attempts by the United States to empower and support those terrorist organizations".

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