Erdogan and United Nations warn of human catastrophe in Idlib

Attack on Idlib could lead to worst loss of life this century: UN official

The crisis in Idlib has the potential to "unleash a humanitarian nightmare unlike any seen in the blood-soaked Syrian conflict", UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Tuesday, noting that there are close to 1 million children in Idlib, part of the wave of internally displaced Syrians who fled there to escape violence elsewhere. "That's something we're monitoring very closely", OCHA spokesman David Swanson told the AFP news agency. Pockets of the province remain under ISIS control.

The German Defense Ministry is reportedly in talks with the USA on potentially taking an active role in airstrikes in the event that Syria's President Bashar al Assad uses chemical weapons in Idlib province.

"We have a military presence there and if that military presence is damaged or attacked in any way, it would be considered an attack on Turkey and would therefore receive the necessary retaliation", the source said.

"I have 30 sheep".

Exhortations about terrorists and Russia's alleged desire to protect civilians have been repeated time and again before every major government offensive that claimed civilian lives, such as in Aleppo and the Damascus suburbs of eastern Ghouta, and flies in the face of Moscow's record of civilian casualties.

A new offensive on Idlib would likely uproot 800,000 people, the United Nations warned, causing major problems for relief agencies.

Britain and France backed the call for a ceasefire, recalling that these had been agreed under arrangements for a "de-escalation zone" in Idlib that were overseen by Russia, Iran and Turkey.

Turkey urged the worldwide community on Tuesday "to vocally and actively support" Turkish calls for a cease-fire in Syria's last rebel-held stronghold in neighboring Idlib province where Syria and its allies have intensified attacks ahead of an expected offensive.

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Meanwhile the bombs keep falling.

USA national security adviser John Bolton said the United States, Britain and France agreed Syria would be met with a "much stronger response" compared with previous air strikes if its government conducted another chemical weapon attack, The Guardian reported.

A full-scale military offensive on Idlib risks creating the worst humanitarian tragedy of the 21st century, United Nations aid agencies have said, amid concerns that a severe funding shortfall threatens the most vulnerable victims of the conflict.

On Monday, its humanitarian chief made an urgent appeal.

Turkey's Sinirlioglu, whose country supports the Syrian opposition, countered that "only a viable cease-fire would allow the creation of an environment to effectively fight terrorism".

But there is a further obstacle; the strip of land between Turkey-controlled Afrin and Idlib is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a former al-Qaeda affiliate.

Its population ballooned as the regime chalked up a series of victories across the country, reaching deals that saw tens of thousands of rebels and civilians bussed into Idlib.

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