Regime, Russian air raids resume on Syria's Idlib

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At a council meeting also on Friday, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia defended the military plans for Idlib, saying armed groups linked to Al-Qaeda were "a legitimate target for liquidation".

That has prompted an estimated 30,452 people to be displaced within Idlib and parts of adjacent Hama province between September 1 and 9, the UN's humanitarian coordination agency (OCHA) said on Monday.

Pro-government forces have massed on the edges of Idlib, wedged into Syria's northwest along the Turkish border. "That's something we're monitoring very closely", OCHA spokesman David Swanson told AFP. But the Pentagon pushed for a more measured response, US officials said, and the idea was eventually rejected as too risky.

"We go wherever it's safe", said the man in his 30s. "Every day, I need water, hay and bran to feed them".

Aid organisations have warned that any military campaign to retake the region of almost three million people on the Turkish border could spark one of the worst humanitarian disasters in Syria's seven-year war.

So far the aerial strikes have not hit a major city in the province, where numerous three million civilians are displaced from other areas, have found refuge in the course of the conflict.

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Although on different sides of the war, Turkey and Russian Federation share an interest in preventing the situation from unraveling.

Trump has already launched two retaliatory strikes against Syria since taking office in response to chemical attacks that killed civilians, the second of which was done in conjunction with British and French forces.

More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since Syria's civil war started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-Assad protests.

On Monday, its humanitarian chief made an urgent appeal.

"There needs to be ways of dealing with this problem that don't turn the next few months in Idlib into the worst humanitarian catastrophe, with the biggest loss of life, of the 21st century", said Mark Lowcock, the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator. Officials predict more fighting could force almost a-third of them to flee again.

At a Tehran summit this week with Rouhani and Putin, Erdogan asked the duo three times for a ceasefire in Idlib where his army backs the rebel forces dominated by al-Qaida's local branch Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), formerly Jabhat al-Nusra. Yet those fighters account for a fraction of Idlib's population.

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A third USA strike likely would be more expansive than the first two, and Mr. Trump would again have to consider whether or not to hit targets like Russian air defenses in an effort to deliver a more punishing blow to Mr. Assad's military.

Syrian forces, backed by Russian Federation and Iran, have been massing for weeks around Idlib's borders where the last bastion of Islamist-dominated rebel groups is seeking refuge and the final obstacle for Assad to declare victory.

However, all three leaders agreed on the "territorial integrity of Syria", as Erdogan demanded to contain Kurdish aspirations for autonomy, and told the United States to leave Syria where its army and air force have supported Kurdish forces in the fight on IS.

Moscow wants to keep rebels from using weaponised drones against Russian warplanes positioned nearby.

Bolton's comments come on the heels of the revelation that the Defense Department is drawing up options for possible military action against Assad as Russian and Syrian airstrikes began pummeling the last remaining rebel stronghold in the country.

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