- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 26, 2019

President Trump warned Russia, Syria and Iran on Thursday to stop killing innocent civilians in a military offensive against Syrian rebels.

The president said the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Moscow and Tehran “are killing, or on their way to killing, thousands” of innocent civilians in Idlib province.

“Don’t do it!” the president tweeted. “Turkey is working hard to stop this carnage.”

Syrian government forces pressed ahead Monday with a new military assault on the country’s last rebel stronghold that began last week. The offensive has triggered a mass exodus of civilians fleeing to safer areas near the Turkish border.

Under the cover of airstrikes and heavy shelling, Syrian troops have been pushing into the northwestern province of Idlib toward a major rebel-held town, Maaret al-Numan. The town sits on a key highway linking the capital Damascus with the northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest.



The immediate goal of Assad’s forces appeared to be reopening the strategic highway, which has been closed by the rebels since 2012.

Idlib province is dominated by al Qaeda-linked militants. It’s also home to 3 million civilians, and the United Nations has warned of the growing risk of a humanitarian catastrophe along the Turkish border.

Residents of villages and towns in southern parts of Idlib province have been fleeing with their belongings in trucks, cars and on motorcycles.

The government’s ground offensive resumed last week after the collapse of a cease-fire, in place since the end of August.

This story is based on wire service reports.

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