Syrian government forces attack rebel-held city

White House pledges to 'respond swiftly' if Assad uses chemical weapons again

White House pledges to 'respond swiftly' if Assad uses chemical weapons again

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived Friday in Tehran for a key trilateral summit on Syria which could determine the fate of Idlib. Turkey, which backed opposition forces against Bashar al-Assad, fears large numbers of refugees fleeing a military offensive and destabilising areas it holds in Syria.

An estimated15 to 20 percent of the 60,000 to 70,000 Syrian rebels in Idlib are believed to be terrorists and Jeffrey said the U.S. "asked repeatedly for permission" from the Russians to rid the area of the terrorists in order to avoid a mass assault.

It said strikes on September 7 destroyed a building near the town of Al-Habeet used by the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham group, which is separate from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, resulting in a number of casualties.

A major assault would be devastating for the almost three million people living in the northwestern province, many of them rebels and civilians who were moved out of other areas as they came back under regime control.

A picture taken on Tuesday shows smoke blowing from buildings reportedly hit by Russian air strikes in the rebel-hold town of Muhambal, about 30 kilometres southwest of the city of Idlib.

America's ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has warned any military offensive in Idlib "would be a reckless escalation". They are also due to hold a press conference.

Trump will chair a UN Security Council meeting on Iran during an annual gathering of world leaders in NY later this month.

As the conflict approaches its endgame, Iran, Turkey and Russian Federation are seeking to safeguard their own interests after investing heavily militarily and diplomatically in Syria.

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Turkey backs numerous rebel groups in the province but recently moved toward its negotiating partners in declaring that the Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as the Al-Nusra Front, is a "terrorist organization" that should be eliminated.

Idlib's population has swelled as the regime chalked up a series of victories across the country, reaching evacuation deals that saw tens of thousands of people bused there.

The Syrian military has been urging the rebels in Idlib to surrender.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani will host his Russian and Turkish counterparts Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan this afternoon.

She stressed, however, that Moscow "is doing everything in its power to ensure that human losses and harm to Idlib's civilian population is limited as much as possible".

Any new flood of refugees toward Turkey would come at a time when Ankara is "vulnerable", he told AFP, adding it would be a "huge new burden on Turkey and would overwhelm its humanitarian capacities".

A spokesman for the National Front for Liberation, a Turkish-based rebel alliance, said the group's fighters were prepared for battle but are looking to Turkey for efforts to prevent the attack and "protect Idlib".

Idlib is one of the so-called "de-escalation" zones set up as a result of talks by Russia, Turkey and Iran past year as Damascus regained control of more of the country.

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