United Nations expresses fears over heavy civilian toll, potential gas attacks in Idlib

United Nations expresses fears over heavy civilian toll, potential gas attacks in Idlib

Lavrov said on Wednesday that militants in Idlib had to be liquidated, describing them as "a festering abscess".

"The Syrian command has taken a decision to defeat Al-Nusra Front in Idlib no matter the sacrifices that it would entail", Muallem said in Arabic, referring to the former Syrian affiliate of Al-Qaeda.

"The United States has taken a very strong stance in the past when chemical weapons have been used".

Muallem accused the USA and its allies of preparing for "another aggression to save al-Nusra Front" and protract the Syrian conflict.

Separately on Thursday, at a news conference in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said his government plans to "liberate" Idlib, but that its priority was "to negotiate peace with those who want to surrender".

Idlib and surrounding areas outside government control are home to three million people, of whom 1.8 million are displaced.

"We definitely intend to discuss it very intensely with the government", de Mistura said.

It would be better to set up humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians than rush into a battle which could prove to be a "perfect storm", he said.

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"Many of these people are considered terrorists or are wanted by the state simply because they engaged in opposition activities", Khodr said, reporting from Lebanon's capital, Beirut.

The United Nations has called on Russia, Iran and Turkey on Thursday to forestall a battle in Syria's Idlib province that would affect millions of civilians and could involve both sides using chlorine as a chemical weapon. "Being a medic according to the Syrian government is terrorism".

Moscow backed previous Syrian government offensives with its airpower and the Russian navy is now gathering in strength in the Mediterranean Sea.

"What we understand from some sources is that Turkey is trying through its contacts in Idlib to convince Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham to disband itself to prevent this all-out offensive", she said. The strike came one week after an alleged gas attack on the city.

Is Russia likely to get involved again?

But Khodr said that Western countries are not prepared to join in the reconstruction, insisting first on a "meaningful, credible, political transition" to Syria.

Russia, an ally of Syria, has provided military assistance to Syrian dictator President Bashar al-Assad to reestablish power in the country after it faced violence from the Syrian Civil War beginning in 2011 and the growth of ISIS.

Regarding the reconstructing of the war-torn Arab country and the return of refugees, Lavrov said that his country was "ready to increase its contribution to these tasks".

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