'Fake' Chemical Attack Filmed in Syria, Russian Military Claims

Vladimir Putin Hassan Rouhani and Tayyip Erdogan

Syrian government and Russian warplanes on Saturday targeted the southern edge of Idlib province with an intense wave of airstrikes and shelling, activists and a war monitoring group said, ratcheting up the military pressure on the densely populated rebel-held bastion.

On Monday, the head of the United Nations humanitarian agency, Mark Lowcock, warned that Idlib could see "the worst humanitarian catastrophe, with the biggest loss of life of the 21st century".

USA officials have said in recent days they have evidence that Syrian regime forces are preparing chemical weapons ahead of a planned assault on an opposition and rebel-held enclave in Idlib in the northwestern part of the country.

On Friday, the presidents of Iran, Russia and Turkey failed to agree during the Tehran summit on how to stave off military action on the northwestern province.

It was the heaviest bombardment since August 10, when at least 53 civilians were killed in Idlib and the neighbouring province of Aleppo, he said.

The UN has said as many as 800,000 people could be displaced by a regime assault on Idlib and surrounding areas. That preserves some leverage for the U.S.in the face of Russian Federation and Iran's presence in Syria.

Several Middle East TV channels and a United States news channel have been sent to Jisr al-Shughur in Syria's Idlib Governorate to produce the footage needed for the provocation, a statement by the Russian Center for Syrian Reconciliation said.

Turkey, which has recently sent reinforcements to its borders to prevent the influx of more refugees, now hosts more than three million Syrians.

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But Russian President Vladimir Putin this week called for the "total annihilation of terrorists in Syria", while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke of "cleansing the Idlib region of terrorists".

According to Dr Habib Khashouf, a member of the doctors' union in Idlib province, as of September 9, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who arrived at the camps in northern Idlib province during the recent escalation stood at 8,000.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday's airstrikes on Idlib and Hama provinces forced some people to flee their homes.

Turkey massed tanks and commandos at its frontier and accelerated work to cope with a possible surge of refugees after Russian Federation refused to call off an offensive against the last rebel bastion in Syria.

Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said no decision has been made by the White House to use military force in response to a possible chemical attack, according to Reuters.

"On the other side, we have the Turks who fear an influx of hundreds of thousands of people into their country and the Turks also maintain a dozen observation posts inside Idlib as well", Ms Abouzeid said.

"If Assad, Russia and Iran continue down the path they are on, the consequences will be dire", she said.

Syria has been ravaged since 2011 by a complex civil war, implicating many foreign powers, that has claimed more than 350,000 lives to date.

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