000 flee in Syria as UN fears century's 'worst' crisis

Iran and Russian Federation have backed a military campaign on Idlib involving Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces, despite Turkey's pleas for a cease-fire.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar Assad has been well warned against any chemical weapons use in an anticipated assault on Idlib province. The conflict would likely create a humanitarian crisis on a scale not yet seen in the seven-year-long conflict, with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of refugees caught between regime forces to the south and a secure Turkish border to the north and west.

TRT World's Oubai Shahbandar has more from Gaziantep, on Turkey's border with Syria.

"Russia, Iran and Assad are demolishing Idlib and asking us to call it peace", she said, warning that Washington would not tolerate the use of chemical weapons.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton said the US, Britain and France had agreed another use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Government would result in a "much stronger response" compared to previous air strikes.

United States ambassador Nikki Haley accused the regime's main backers of escalating the violence in Idlib province and using terrorist tactics.

According to USA officials, the Russians have twice threatened to conduct military operations in the area over the last 10 days, prompting the us military to warn against any such move and deploy Marine reinforcements to the area. The world will hold them responsible.

The Trump Administration has already twice responded to Assad's chemical attacks with military force. "And in those cases where that did not take place, by an anti-terrorist operation, which happened in other de-escalation areas, which are now under the control of Syrian authorities", he said.

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When asked what the US has done to prevent their use, Mattis referred to US, UK and French strikes on Syria after a chemical weapons attack in April.

He added that Russian Federation and Iran were also responsible for stopping a humanitarian disaster in Idlib, and said the global community had to "throw its weight behind a political solution".

"I am happy with the reports about an indefinite stay", O'Hanlon said, but added: "We also need a more realistic political strategy, explicitly and publicly, that ties everything together and lays out a vision and recognizes the reality of Assad's continued rule, at least in some of the country, at least for a while".

"Our top line message is 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", Lowcock told reporters in Geneva.

The opposition accuses Russian Federation and its allies of striking at hospitals and civil defense centers to force rebels to surrender in a repeat of earlier, large-scale military offensives.

That has prompted more than 30,000 people to be displaced within Idlib and parts of adjacent Hama province between September 1 and 9, the UN's humanitarian co-ordination agency (OCHA) said on Monday. "That's something we're monitoring very closely", OCHA spokesman David Swanson said.

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.

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