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14 September 2018, 03:33 | Erica Roy
Humanitarian crisis worsens in Syria as crippling assault on Idlib continues
More than 30,000 people have so far fled their homes in northwest Syria since Syrian government and allied forces resumed air and ground bombardments there last week, the United Nations agency coordinating relief efforts said on Monday.
"We're not talking about a military offensive", the Russian ambassador said. "Every day, I need water, hay and bran to feed them".
He said this requires time and patience and is what Turkey has been trying to achieve in its separation efforts in Idlib.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is appealing to all parties directly and indirectly involved in Syria - especially Iran, Russia, and Turkey - to protect civilians and avoid a "bloodbath" in the last major rebel-held stronghold in Idlib.
On Monday, the United Nations envoy is scheduled to hold a meeting with representatives of the three guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire - Russia, Iran and Turkey.
Meanwhile the bombs keep falling.
Pointing to a United States missile strike on a Syrian air base in April 2017 after Assad's jets launched an alleged chemical attack in Idlib, Mattis noted that the Syrian leader had suffered massive losses to his air force.
Almost half of Idlib's population of 2.9 million people had gone there to seek refuge from conflict elsewhere in Syria, including nearly 1 million children.
On Monday, its humanitarian chief made an urgent appeal.
The UN warned last week that such an offensive would lead to the "worst humanitarian catastrophe in the 21st century".
This includes hundreds of thousands who were displaced from other parts of Syria - many forcibly exiled after refusing to return to living under the Assad regime as it reclaimed the country from rebel groups.
But there is a further obstacle; the strip of land between Turkey-controlled Afrin and Idlib is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a former al-Qaeda affiliate.
At least two hospitals and two centres running rescue operations for wounded people were put out of service by shelling and air strikes, according to the Britain-based Observatory and the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations, which backs medical centres in Syria.
Last week's summit in Tehran between the three sides did not produce any agreement, as Iran and Russian Federation rejected Turkey's call for a continued ceasefire in the rebel bastion.
Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari, Russia's special envoy on Syria Alexander Lavrentiev, Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal, and U.N. Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura attend a meeting during consultations on Syria at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland September 11, 2018.
Turkey, which already hosts about 3.5 million Syrian refugees, built a four-metre wall along the frontier with Idlib in late 2016 to prevent any attacks against Turkey and stop the flow of new arrivals.
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