Russian and Syrian warplanes pounded towns in Syria's opposition-held Idlib province on Saturday, a day after a summit of the presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russia failed to agree on a ceasefire that would forestall a Russian-backed offensive.
Speaking hours after a three-way summit in Tehran at which the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, pleaded with Russian Federation and Iran to halt any forthcoming offensive, Erdoğan ramped up his rhetoric, insisting Ankara would not participate in "furthering the interests of Bashar al-Assad".
Earlier in the week, Russian jets were reported to have carried out about 30 strikes on rebel-held areas in western Idlib, the mountains of Latakia province, and the Sahl al-Ghab plain.
Turkey - which has long backed some rebel groups - fears a final assault will trigger another major refugee crisis on its southern border.
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The intense air raids came a day after Iran and Russian Federation backed a military campaign in the rebel-held area despite Turkey's pleas for a ceasefire.
The US has made it abundantly clear that it is ready to attack Syria, should chemical weapons come into play in the government's operation to clear the remaining pockets of jihadist resistance in Idlib.
Nearly 3 million civilians live there and the prospects for a humanitarian catastrophe are high if the government doesn't allow an escape route. However, the Post article itself admits that 14,000 fighters in Idlib are linked to al-Qaeda, though the figure is likely much higher.
Idlib is often described as the "last refuge" for rebels and internally displaced civilians, and any offensive threatens new displacement and human misery.
Mr Putin said Russian Federation would continue its fight against "terrorists" in Idlib province.
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Ankara wants to "prevent attacks on Idlib", Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a press conference with German counterpart Heiko Maas. "It's all a media war", said 50-year-old former construction worker Jaafar Abu Ahmad from a rural area near Ma'arat al-Nuaman town.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said militant groups in Idlib could be targeted effectively without causing a humanitarian catastrophe.
The vast majority of Idlib's population are civilians, who risk being massacred.
Civilians in Syria's last major stronghold of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad's rule are stocking up on food and digging shelters ahead of an expected army offensive An estimated 3 million people are going to be affected, said rights agencies.
He did not give details of the evidence he was referring to. It also said Syrian forces have used chemical weapons, including chlorine, more than two dozen times during the war.
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The Syrian government has denied ever using chemical weapons.