Fearing 'perfect storm' United Nations urges evacuation of civilians from Idlib

Fearing 'perfect storm' United Nations urges evacuation of civilians from Idlib

Fearing 'perfect storm' United Nations urges evacuation of civilians from Idlib

Russia's Ministry of Defense said on Thursday it would hold naval exercises in the Mediterranean Sea from September 1 to September 8 and that 25 vessels and 30 planes would take part, the TASS news agency reported.

The region was hit by sporadic airstrikes and shelling in advance of a Russian Defense Ministry announcement Thursday that its forces will begin a "large-scale" Mediterranean Sea exercise that the Kremlin says is needed because of the failure to address the jihadi presence in Idlib.

The drills come amid tensions between Russian Federation and the West over Syria's northern rebel-held region of Idlib.

The drills were announced after North Atlantic Treaty Organisation reported a Russian naval buildup in the Mediterranean.

The UN envoy for Syria has proposed that civilians holed up in the rebel-held region of Idlib could evacuate to government areas - a move that would send many back into parts of Syria they once fled in its seven-and-a-half-year-old civil war.

Syrian foreign minister Walid Al-Moualem said on Thursday their main targets were hardline Al-Nusra militants, Reuters reported.

"This hotbed of terrorists (in Idlib) does really not bode anything good if such inaction continues", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

"We exchanged assessments of the progress of the steps to differentiate the armed opposition ready for dialogue with the Syrian government from the terrorists", he said.

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"The lives of 2.9 million people are at stake, and worldwide mutually threatening messages and warnings and counter-warnings are taking place in the last few days".

The UN estimates that a major Syrian government offensive in the Idlib area risks forcing another 700,000 Syrians from their homes.

National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu discussed Syrian crisis in a phone call, a Defense Ministry source told Anadolu Agency (AA). The US has threatened to attack Syria if a chemical weapon is used, and the US never seems to bother with figuring out who released the chemicals.

Such strikes would likely come in the form of American cruise missiles launched from Washington's fleet of ships in the Mediterranean.

Western governments and their allies have never stopped pointing the finger at Damascus whenever an apparent chemical attack takes place. Turkey and the West fear a new humanitarian catastrophe and another wave of refugees into Europe as a result.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said this month he hoped Ankara and Moscow could find a solution for Idlib, warning that a bombing campaign there would be a massacre.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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