President Trump sent a tweet Monday warning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies against a "reckless attack" on Idlib province. "The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don't let that happen!" Trump said. On a visit to Damascus the same day, Iran's foreign minister said "terrorists must be purged" from Idlib and the entire northwestern province returned to government control, the AP reports. Mohammad Javad Zarif met with Assad and his foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, who is just back from a visit to Moscow.
Zarif's visit comes days before the leaders of Iran, Turkey, and Russia are expected to meet in Iran to discuss the situation in Idlib. Assad has vowed to defeat the opposition in its last refuge in the northwestern province if the rebels do not surrender to government rule. Idlib and the surrounding area is home to some 3 million people—nearly half of them already displaced more than once by the civil war. UN officials believe an offensive on Idlib would trigger a wave of displacement that could uproot an estimated 800,000 people and discourage refugees from returning home. The US and France have warned that an Idlib offensive would trigger a humanitarian crisis—and that a chemical attack in Idlib would prompt a western retaliation.
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