Millions trapped in Idlib prepare for worst

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Tehran and Moscow have helped Assad turn the course of the war against an array of opponents ranging from Western-backed rebels to the Islamist militants, while Turkey is a leading opposition supporter and has troops in the country.

Idlib is the last major area held by rebels in Syria.

Zarif posted the message in the midst of a trilateral meeting between Iran, Russia and Turkey focused on a looming battle against militants in Idlib province in northwest Syria.

It is the last major rebel-held area in Syria and government forces, backed by Russian Federation, are poised to attack.

A member of the Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, searches through the wreckage of their center, which was destroyed by government forces in the town of al-Tamana on the southern edges of the rebel-held Idlib province, September 6, 2018.

"The regime might conduct a face-saving attack on areas away from Turkey's zones of operation, a low-hanging fruit", he said.

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Syrian state media said the attacks on Saturday were a retaliation to overnight shelling from rebel-held areas on a government-held town in Hama province, south of Idlib, that killed nine civilians. Turkey has troops stationed in Idlib and 12 observations posts around the province as part of the pact.

Speaking Thursday at the United Nations Security Council, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said the Assad regime "and its backers must stop their military campaign in all its forms to allow the U.N. -led political process to have a chance to succeed".

In another village in central Idlib, Hass, an area hospital was hit by the airstrikes, putting it out of service and injuring two of its staff members, according to Coordinators of Response, a group of volunteers operating in northern Syria. They might come to Turkey or go back to their own countries.

Vladimir Putin had earlier rejected Erdoğan's calls for a ceasefire in Idlib, the last opposition stronghold in Syria.

While it's hard to be sure of the depth of Trump's engagement on Syria policy considering his quick reversals in recent months, he was part of an effort by US officials this week to warn the Syrian regime and its allies not to use chemical weapons or target civilians as they prepare for an assault on Idlib province, the last rebel stronghold.

"There is lots of evidence that chemical weapons are being prepared" by Syrian government forces in Idlib, the U.S. State Department's adviser for Syria, Jim Jeffrey, said in an interview with Reuters.

Russian Federation says Syrian regime preparing to 'solve' Idlib problem
Analysts say there is still a window of opportunity to avoid the humanitarian impact of a full-scale offensive. Russian Federation says militants in Idlib target its own facilities in Syria and pose a terrorist threat.

Rouhani said the United States should end its presence in Syria, while Erdogan said Turkey was "extremely annoyed" by Washington's support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, whom Ankara considers as terrorists linked to Kurdish separatists in Turkey.

The Qatari newspaper Al-Watan gave coverage under the title "Turkish president stresses the need to resolve the issue of Idlib without new tragedies and tensions".

Elsewhere on Saturday, clashes between Kurdish forces and regime fighters in the divided northeastern city of Qamishli killed 18 combatants, the Kurdish forces and the Observatory said.

The Syrian government has denied ever using chemical weapons. At least one person was killed and several others wounded. This prompted the clashes that lasted no more than 20 minutes, he said.

Erdogan, meanwhile, may have been the leader with the most to lose ahead of the offensive.

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