Trump warns Syria, Russia, Iran against Idlib ‘tragedy’

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Numerous residents are rebels and civilians who were bussed out of other areas as they came back under Syrian regime control.

Troops have been massing on the edges of the northwestern province which borders Turkey for weeks, raising fears of a humanitarian disaster on a scale not yet seen in Syria's seven-year conflict.

More than half of Idlib is controlled by militants from Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), while much of the rest is held by rebels backed by Turkey.

The Syrian military shelled the last stronghold of active rebellion against President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday as a war monitor said insurgents blew up another bridge in anticipation of a government offensive. He also could not comment on reports that Russian warplanes had carried out air strikes on Idlib earlier Tuesday.

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Speaking in a meeting with visiting US Republican Senator Richard Hayden Black in Damascus on Wednesday, Assad said that Washington has long resorted to threats, punitive measures as well as state terrorism, stressing that it will be of great benefit to American statesmen and nation if Washington opts to secure peace than to foment strife and destabilize world countries.

Since May 2017, Idlib has been protected by a partial ceasefire following a de-escalation agreement between Turkey, Iran, and Russian Federation.

"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 statement reads.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on sources in Syria for its reports, said at least nine civilians - including five children from the same family - were killed in the raids, while 10 people were wounded.

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Damascus and its main backer, Moscow, have vowed to root out the jihadist groups that dominate Idlib province.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated Russia's position, calling Idlib a "hornets' nest of terrorists".

Erdoğan, as well as the presidents of Iran and Russian Federation, will meet on Friday in Tehran for a summit expected to focus on Idlib.

She warned on Tuesday against the use of any chemical weapons in Idlib, after the White House pledged to "respond swiftly and appropriately" to any such attack.

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Rescue workers accused regime forces of killing more than 40 people with "poisonous chlorine gas" in the town of Douma in April.

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