Russia Confirms Air Strikes on Syria's Idlib

Donald Trump and Bashar al-Assad

Donald Trump and Bashar al-Assad

Nikki Haley, the USA ambassador to the United Nations, said on Tuesday the UN Security Council would meet on Friday to discuss the precarious situation in the province.

The presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey, the countries acting as the guarantors of the ceasefire in Syria, are set to meet in Tehran on Friday for a third summit seeking an end to the Syrian crisis.

"The United States is closely monitoring the situation in Idlib province, Syria, where millions of innocent civilians are under threat of an imminent Assad regime attack, backed by Russian Federation and Iran", the White House said in a statement on Tuesday.

Haley's own warning focused more explicitly on the prospect of a chemical attack. "If they want to continue to go the route of taking over Syria, they can do that, but they cannot do it with chemical weapons", she said.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday urged Damascus against launching a battle to retake Idlib, the last major chunk of Syria still in opposition hands.

Assad has said he is preparing a final offensive in Idlib, and Russian warplanes this week began bombing the region.

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The US warned Syria Tuesday it will respond "swiftly and appropriately" if it uses chemical weapons against its people.

Although the military campaign against the Islamic State has been almost completed, the administration has redefined its goals to include the exit of all Iranian military and proxy forces from Syria, and establishment of a stable, nonthreatening government acceptable to all Syrians and the global community.

The first test of the administration's expanded role in Syria may come sooner rather than later in Idlib, in the northwest part of the country. But he now presides over a country where large areas more closely resemble fields of rubble than cities or towns.

The Syrian military has been deploying reinforcements to the zone for more than a month, and Russian Federation has stepped up its rhetoric. Syrian forces are surrounding the province, and observers say a multiparty operation may be imminent.

Moscow has been carrying out strikes in Syria since September 2015, using aircraft at the Hmeimim base in Latakia province. It accuses rebels in Idlib of attacking Hmeimim with weaponised drones and insists jihadists in the province must be eliminated. That also includes an estimated 10,000 hardcore fighters, including al-Qaida-linked militants. His scorched-earth tactics and, at times, use of chemical weapons have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians and driven millions from their homes.

Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sweden to the UN Olof Skoog said at the organization's headquarters in NY that a full-scale military operation in Idlib would escalate an already unsafe conflict in a volatile region.

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