Published: Thu, September 06, 2018
Global Media | By Garry Long

Russia Launches Airstrikes in Syria's Rebel-Held Idlib

Russia Launches Airstrikes in Syria's Rebel-Held Idlib

"A Syrian military offensive in Idlib will be an escalation of the Syrian conflict that will risk the lives of humanitarian workers and Syrian civilians, destroy civilian infrastructure, imperil the prospects for a political settlement in Syria, fuel support for terrorism, and harm regional stability", the US mission in Turkey said on Twitter.

U.S. President Donald Trump has twice ordered U.S. -led strikes against targets in Syria in response to what Washington called the Assad government's use of chemical weapons against civilians.

Despite these claims, Israel and the United States say Iran has been building its military presence in Syria, as well as transferring arms to its Shi'ite allies in neighboring Iraq.

Turkey and the USA said they were racing find a diplomatic solution to avoid "a serious massacre" in Syria's Idlib province ahead of a critical summit on Friday which is likely to decide the fate of the rebel stronghold. "The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy", Mr. Trump tweeted.

On April 4, 2017, a suspected sarin gas attack hit the town of Khan Shaykhun in Syria's Idlib Province, killing more than 80 people.

"Such an attack would be a reckless escalation of an already tragic conflict and would risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of people", said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, warning the United States and its allies "will respond swiftly and appropriately".

Seized from government forces in 2015, Idlib and adjacent areas form the last major chunk of territory still in rebel hands.

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The Pentagon has seen "zero" evidence to suggest that opposition groups in Syria's Idlib province could use chemical weapons, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Wednesday, despite Russian claims to the contrary.

A UN Security Council meeting is also set to be held the same day to discuss Idlib, US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has said.

Idlib is one of the so-called "de-escalation" zones set up as a result of talks by Russia, Turkey and Iran a year ago as Damascus regained control of more of the country. But he stressed that there are some 2.9 million civilians in the province, including around one million children, who "are not terrorists".

Trump and his top officials have called attention to the impending Syrian government offensive in recent days, warning the Syrian regime and its backers Russian Federation and Iran not to use chemical weapons or recklessly cause civilian deaths.

Mr Mattis slammed the book, calling it "a uniquely Washington brand of literature". Let's go in. Let's kill the f-king lot of them", Trump said, according to the tell-all, "Fear: "Trump in the White House", a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post.

Mattis told Trump he would "get right on it", but instead developed a plan for a limited air strike that did not threaten Assad personally. "We're going to be much more measured", Mattis said according to Woodward's book.

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