Pope warns of 'humanitarian catastrophe' in Syrian rebel bastion

Larry Hoffman
September 4, 2018

On Sunday an attack was reported in Syria near the Al-Maza military airport in Damascus, which was attributed to Israel.

Trump's tweet came shortly after Iran's foreign minister said "terrorists must be purged" from Idlib, the last opposition stronghold in the country.

Idlib is adjacent to Latakia province, the coastal heartland of Assad's Alawite minority and home to the Russian military airport of Hmeimim.

"In order to start the peace process as well as the return of refugees and to allow the start of the reconstruction phase in Syria, the remaining terrorists in parts of Idlib must be cleaned out", Zarif said.

He met with Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, who is just back from a visit to Moscow. He said it is not possible to tolerate the situation there indefinitely, according to Interfax.

Assad's forces, backed by military support from Russian Federation and Iran, have recaptured major cities in recent years, often involving agreements with both opposition fighters and civilians that allowed them to flee to Idlib.

Idlib and the surrounding area is home to some 3 million people - almost half of them already displaced a couple of times by the civil war. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed.

President Assad has vowed to defeat the opposition in its last refuge in the province if the rebels do not surrender to government rule.

Netanyahu discussed "the situation in Syria and the joint effort to stop Iran's terror and aggression" with James Jeffrey, the United States special representative for Syria engagement, said a statement.

Thousands of government troops have been surrounding the area, preparing for what appears to be a major assault.

Further Iranian engagement in Syria meanwhile risks drawing Israel deeper into the conflict.

In the statement from the Syrian President's office, Assad and Zarif said that resorting to "threats and pressure reflect the failure of those countries to realize their plans for the region after Syria and Iran confronted them".

Britain, France and the USA, which together launched limited attacks on Syrian installations in mid-April in retaliation for an alleged Syrian chemical attack, say their red line against illegal weapon use remains in force.

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