Sunday, 18 November, 2018

Syria opposition forces should leave Idlib — UN commission

UN chief pushes for protection of civilians in Syria's Idlib Turkey arms rebels as Idlib prepares for Syrian onslaught
Jeannette Daniel | 15 September, 2018, 18:39

In cities and towns across Syria's last opposition-held province, Idlib, residents poured into the streets on Friday to demonstrate against President Bashar Assad's government in defiance of an expected offensive to retake the territory.

Turkey, already hosting 3.5 million Syrians, says it can not take in another wave of refugees.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Pakistani counterpart, Cavusoglu said Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the topic of Syria on Monday.

Among the civilians are close to 1 million children, according to rights groups.

Erdogan met with the leaders of Iran and Russian Federation last week in Tehran to discuss Syria, but failed to win a ceasefire pledge.

Speaking to reporters after a United Nations -backed humanitarian task force meeting Thursday chaired by the USA and Russia, Moumtzis said the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and its partners want to be ready for up to 900,000 people who could flee Idlib.

More news: At least 4 dead as Florence downgraded to Tropical Storm

Over the past few years, thousands of rebels have been evacuated from different parts of Syria to Idlib under agreements with the government. Most of the displaced headed toward the border with Turkey, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, packing already overcrowded camps there.

Syrian activists meanwhile said new military reinforcements had arrived to beef up Turkish observation points inside Idlib.

An estimated 3 million people live in Idlib, almost half of them having arrived there after being displaced by fighting elsewhere in Syria.

The UN said in a report in August that, "any military escalation, would lead to the displacement of around 900,000 civilians over the coming six months, including 700,000 people within Idlib alone".

The Russian foreign minister also raised the possibility of rebels using chemical weapons against government troops in Idlib as grounds for an offensive but added: "What is being presented at the moment as the beginning of a Russian-backed offensive by Syrian forces is not a faithful representation of the facts". Parties to this conflict have clear and unambiguous obligations to spare the civilian population from the scourge of war, and the presence of designated terrorists or legitimate military targets does nothing to diminish such obligations.

"It appears that the Russians and the Assad regime have temporarily looked the other way", said one of the sources, Colonel Mustafa Bakour, a commander in the Jaish al-Ezza rebel group. "The operation is not canceled, but we have time".

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