Turk­ish re­in­force­ments sent into Syria’s Idlib

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - WORLD NEWS - Sarah El Deeb

BEIRUT — Turkey sent in mil­i­tary re­in­force­ments Thurs­day to beef up its po­si­tions in­side Syria’s last rebel bas­tion Idlib, ac­tivists re­ported, even as the Turk­ish de­fence min­is­ter said Ankara is still try­ing with Rus­sia and Iran to pre­vent a hu­man­i­tar­ian tragedy in the case of a threat­ened Syr­ian gov­ern­ment of­fen­sive.

Hu­lusi Akar, the Turk­ish de­fence min­is­ter, said a mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion in the densely pop­u­lated rebel en­clave would drag the al­ready prob­lem­atic re­gion to­ward dis­as­ter. He spoke dur­ing a meet­ing with for­eign am­bas­sadors late Wed­nes­day, ac­cord­ing to the staterun Turk­ish Anadolu Agency.

“We are work­ing with Rus­sia, Iran and other al­lies to bring peace and sta­bil­ity and to stop a hu­man­i­tar­ian tragedy,” Akar said, ac­cord­ing to Anadolu.

The UN said that in the first 12 days of Septem­ber, more than 30,000 peo­ple have been dis­placed by an in­tense aerial bomb­ing cam­paign. Most of the dis­placed headed to­ward the border with Turkey, the UN Of­fice for the Co-or­di­na­tion of Hu­man­i­tar­ian Af­fairs said, pack­ing al­ready over­crowded camps there. Nearly half of Idlib’s 3 mil­lion citi- zens are al­ready dis­placed by con­flict in other parts of Syria.

In the case of an of­fen­sive, the UN es­ti­mates nearly 700,000 will be dis­placed in­side Idlib, and about 100,000 will head to nearby gov­ern­ment-held ar­eas.

An emer­gency plan is in place and the UN has asked donors for $311 mil­lion to cover those ex­pected to be in need, said OCHA re­gional hu­man­i­tar­ian co-or­di­na­tor Panos Moumtzis.

“We hope it won’t hap­pen ... we hope it will not be needed,” said Moumtzis, speak­ing in Geneva, Switzer­land.

The Turk­ish de­ploy­ment comes amid a lull in a con­certed gov­ern­ment and Rus­sian aerial bomb­ing cam­paign on the south­ern edge of Idlib.

The rebels have held Idlib prov­ince since 2015 but a gov­ern­ment of­fen­sive cap­tured chunks on the eastern flanks of the prov­ince last year be­fore Turkey be­gan de­ploy­ing its ob­ser­va­tion points and halt­ing the ad­vances.

In re­cent weeks, Syr­ian gov­ern­ment forces have been mass­ing to the south and south­west of the prov­ince, and in re­cent days launched an in­tense aerial bomb­ing cam­paign tar­get­ing rebel po­si­tions, three med­i­cal cen­tres and res­cue work­ers last week.

Ugar can/ the as­so­ciat ed press

Above: A Syr­ian op­po­si­tion fighter trains in a camp in the Turk­ish-con­trolled north­west­ern city of Azaz, Syria. Turkey has sent mil­i­tary re­in­force­ments into Syria’s Idlib prov­ince ahead of a pos­si­ble gov­ern­ment of­fen­sive.

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