Ceasefire talks fail as airstrikes target last rebel-held region in Syria


The UN's new humanitarian chief warned Monday that a large-scale military operation against the rebel-held Syrian province of Idlib could create "the worst humanitarian catastrophe" of this century.

United States officials have said in recent days they have evidence that Syrian regime forces are preparing chemical weapons ahead of a planned assault on an opposition and rebel-held enclave in Idlib in the northwestern part of the country.

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia, Hassan Rouhani of Iran and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey held their third summit meeting on Syrian settlement in Tehran on September 7.

But the government and Russian raids targeted a wide swath of rebel-held area in the southern edge of the rebel-held enclave that includes most of Idlib province and northern Hama province.

According to US officials, the Russians have twice threatened to conduct military operations in the area over the last 10 days, prompting the USA military to warn against any such move and deploy Marine reinforcements to the area.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said dozens of Russian air raids hit southern and south-eastern areas of Idlib on Saturday.

Fresh Russian bombardments in northwestern Syria have sent tens of thousands of people fleeing their homes in recent days, prompting a Turkish outcry over an anticipated assault and an inevitable new wave of refugees on its border.

The Trump administration has warned for days about an expected assault on Idlib, the last major stronghold for rebels fighting in Syria, while urging Syrian leader Bashar Assad and his allies not to use chemical weapons.

OCHA spokesman David Swanson told Reuters that as of Sunday, 30,542 people had been displaced from northwest Syria, moving to different areas across Idlib.

More news: EPL: Gareth Southgate warns Mourinho over Rashford
More news: Stock markets pick up after Asia drops over Trump tariffs
More news: Things to Know About Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin

Although the presence of Turkish forces in Idlib could complicate Damascus' plans to retake the province and risk direct military confrontation between Turkey and Syria, the Syrian government has insisted it will liberate Idlib even if Erdogan does not withdraw his forces.

More than half a million people have been killed and 11 million already forced to flee their homes in Syria's seven-year-old war.

Mohamed said a small number of Jisr al-Shoghour residents had also returned to the town, but the majority of them - around 6,000 - were still sheltering elsewhere.

The Assad regime has twice been targeted by United States air and missile strikes after previous alleged chemical attacks, and United States officials have in recent days said additional action would follow if Assad were to use the banned weapons in rebel-held Idlib.

The attacks have displaced 30,000 people with nowhere to go.

"I'm not going to tell the world ahead of time what we're going to do".

Russian Federation has said it wants all militants to be pushed out of Idlib and that it avoids civilians and targets only radical al Qaeda-inspired groups.

Syria has been ravaged since 2011 by a complex civil war, implicating many foreign powers, that has claimed more than 350,000 lives to date.