Trump warns of ‘carnage’ in rebel Syrian stronghold

US president lauds Turkey while condemning Russia, Syria and Iran for Idlib assault

US president Donald Trump and Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Mr Trump said ‘Turkey is working hard to stop this carnage’ in Idlib province. Photograph: Reuters

US president Donald Trump and Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Mr Trump said ‘Turkey is working hard to stop this carnage’ in Idlib province. Photograph: Reuters

 

US president Donald Trump has spoken out against the “carnage” involving thousands of civilians in a rebel stronghold in Syria.

In a tweet on Thursday, Mr Trump wrote: “Russia, Syria, and Iran are killing, or on their way to killing, thousands of innocent civilians in Idlib province. Don’t do it! Turkey is working hard to stop this carnage.”

The tweet refers to an intense air and ground bombardment by government forces in southern and eastern Idlib province, the last rebel-held bastion in the country.

About a month ago, Syrian government forces launched a renewed effort to take the province, which is dominated by al-Qaeda-linked militants and is also home to three million civilians.

The United Nations has warned of the growing risk of a humanitarian catastrophe along the Turkish border.

A Syrian relief group said on Wednesday that more than 200,000 men, women and children had fled their homes in buses, trucks and cars in recent weeks. Many have been heading towards the Turkish border for safety.

Before a ground offensive began a week ago, the UN reported that some 60,000 Idlib residents had already been displaced since the government’s bombing campaign started late last month.

Videos posted online by activists and the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defence, also known as White Helmets, showed long lines of cars, trucks and buses heading north, with people carrying their valuables and loading bags and mattresses onto vehicles.

Trucks carry belongings of people fleeing from Maarat al-Numan, in northern Idlib, Syria. Photograph: Reuters
Trucks carry belongings of people fleeing from Maarat al-Numan, in northern Idlib, Syria. Photograph: Reuters
A deserted market street in Maaret Al-Numan in the northwestern Idlib province, as government forces advance on the town. Photograph: Getty
A deserted market street in Maaret Al-Numan in the northwestern Idlib province, as government forces advance on the town. Photograph: Getty

Mr Trump also addressed the plight of civilians in Idlib in June, accusing Russia, Syria and Iran of “indiscriminately killing many innocent civilians” in a bombing campaign.

“The world is watching this butchery,” he tweeted then, imploring them to “STOP!”

Several months later he announced he would withdraw US troops from northeastern Syria.