Chorus to avoid Idlib 'massacre'

Chorus to avoid Idlib massacre

Beirut - "God forbid, a serious massacre could take place if there is a rain of missiles there," said Erdogan.

By AP, Reuters

Published: Wed 5 Sep 2018, 10:47 PM

Last updated: Thu 6 Sep 2018, 12:53 AM

 International calls mounted on Wednesday to avoid a "massacre" by regime forces in Syria's last rebel-held province of Idlib, two days before a summit between key powers backing the government and opposition.

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

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday was the latest to warn Damascus against an all-out offensive against a region the United Nations says is home to nearly three million people.

"God forbid, a serious massacre could take place if there is a rain of missiles there," said Erdogan, whose country has supported Syrian rebels. He spoke two days before he is set to meet the presidents of regime backers Iran and Russia in Tehran to discuss the future of the province.

Global concern has risen in recent days over a threatened regime assault to oust rebels from Idlib province and surrounding areas, the last major chunk of Syria still in opposition hands. On Tuesday, the UN peace envoy for Syria urged Erdogan and Russia's President Vladimir Putin to speak on the phone before Friday's summit. Staffan de Mistura called for efforts "to avoid that the last probably major battle of the Syrian territorial conflict...ends in a bloodbath".

Russia's Defence Ministry said Tuesday's air strikes had only targeted militants and not struck populated areas. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said they had killed 13 civilians, including children, but no fighters.

The United Nations and aid groups have warned a military campaign could spark one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes.

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