United Nations warns 30,000 already displaced from Syria's Idlib

Sergio Conner
September 14, 2018

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is appealing to all parties directly and indirectly involved in Syria - especially Iran, Russia, and Turkey - to protect civilians and avoid a "bloodbath" in the last major rebel-held stronghold in Idlib.

Erdogan's comments came just four days after meeting with his Iranian and Russian counterparts in Tehran to develop a strategy to protect Idlib's civilians, where Erdogan failed to achieve his goal, a ceasefire in the province which is home to almost 3 million people.

Idlib is estimated to be now home to about three million civilians, including one million children, many of whom have already fled fighting elsewhere in Syria, or have been evacuated there under resettlement deals, as well as tens of thousands of fighters. The Russian government claims that chlorine gas canisters have already been put in place in Idlib for use in the attack. "We are very actively preparing for the possibility that civilians move in huge numbers in multiple directions".

Humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said the regime's planned assault on Idlib would likely lead to huge numbers of civilian deaths, and perhaps the biggest loss of life this century.

"When we speak to Syrians who have already been displaced three, five, even six times, they themselves say there is nowhere to go".

That has prompted an estimated 30,452 people to be displaced within Idlib and parts of adjacent Hama province between September 1 and 9, the UN's humanitarian coordination agency (OCHA) said Monday.

Christy Delafield of Mercy Corps, one of the largest organizations delivering aid in Syria, said it has been hard for aid workers and communities to keep up with the displacement.

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Underscoring the necessity of preventing civilian casualties, he further called on Russia, Iran, the US, France and the United Kingdom as well as all other partners and actors in Syria to work together and find a peaceful solution.

"The crossing points along the front lines between the government and opposition-controlled areas have been closed, and as a result, food prices have dramatically increased".

"The hypothesis of war crimes cannot be excluded. once one begins to indiscriminately bomb civilian populations and hospitals", Jean-Yves Le Drian told lawmakers. Ankara wants to disarm these groups, while keeping the peace in Idlib.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned Russian Federation and Iran of "dire consequences" if they continue airstrikes against the last rebel-held area in Syria and said the US would respond to any use of chemical weapons.

Delegations from the three countries will be in Geneva on Tuesday to meet the UN's Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura.

The regime of Bashar Assad and its top backer Moscow have consistently denied those claims, pointing the finger at rebels instead.

A full-scale regime assault on Syria's last opposition and rebel-held province of Idlib would sabotage the ongoing political process, Turkey's presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said after a cabinet meeting chaired by President Erdogan.

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