USA talks Syria airstrikes with UK, France

Attack on Idlib could lead to worst loss of life this century: UN official

President Donald Trump's national security adviser warned the Syrian government against using chemical weapons in the looming battle for Idlib Province, the last remaining rebel stronghold populated by more than 2 million people.

"This would unleash a humanitarian nightmare unlike any seen in the blood-soaked Syrian conflict".

"He's been warned, and so we'll see if he's wised up", he added.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said that Washington would consider any large-scale military campaign on Idlib as a "reckless escalation" and called on Russian Federation to prevent it.

Pierce said the council faces "a choice", between a Syrian regime and Russian "military assault on Idlib in which, as many colleagues have said today, thousands of civilians will die", or "we allow Turkey and opposition groups the support, space and time to separate out the terrorists and tackle them themselves".

"A regime assault [in Idlib] would also create serious humanitarian and security risks for Turkey, the rest of Europe and beyond", he added.

USA ambassador Nikki Haley accused the regime's main backers of escalating the violence in Idlib province and using terrorist tactics.

CNN reported last week that United States officials have grown anxious that an assault on Idlib could involve the use of chemical weapons if the rebels are able to slow regime advances. "And in those cases where that did not take place, by an anti-terrorist operation, which happened in other de-escalation areas, which are now under the control of Syrian authorities", he said.

"Fighting terrorism does not absolve warring parties of their core obligations under worldwide law", said Guterres, who directly appealed to Iran, Russia and Turkey to spare no effort to protect civilians, "preserve basic services such as hospitals, ensure full respect for global humanitarian law".

Haley said the failed summit was another indication that Russia, Iran and the Assad regime are not interested in a political solution, telling the council that those parties have "had every opportunity to demonstrate their credibility as constructive actors in Syria".

The Turkish leader also criticized Assad's bid to legitimize the fight in Idlib as a counter-terrorism operation.

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 Monday. "We are not talking about a military operation".

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.

On Monday, a top United Nations humanitarian official, Mark Lowcock, said that unless some way of "dealing with this problem" was found, what is about to transpire in Idlib could descend into "the worst humanitarian catastrophe, with the biggest loss of life of the 21st century".

Many made a dash for Syria's northern border with Turkey, with just under half seeking refuge in displacement camps and others living with local families or renting apartments.

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