The White House reminded Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday that the United States would retaliate if it returned to using chemical weapons against its people.
"Let's be clear, it remains our firm position that if President Bashar al-Assad decides to reuse chemical weapons, the United States and its allies will respond quickly and adequately," the president's press secretary, Sarah Sanders, said in a statement. .
President Donald Trump warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies, Iran and Russia, in a Monday night tweet not to "imprudently attack" the Syrian province of Idlib, controlled by the rebels.
His White House said on Tuesday that the United States is "closely monitoring the situation," calling Assad, Russia and Iran and repeating Trump's warning that a full-scale attack on rebel-controlled territory would be a reckless escalation of a already tragic conflict and risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of people & # 39;
President Donald Trump traveled to Twitter on Monday to warn Syrian President Bashar al-Assad not to attack an attack on the country's last rebel stronghold saying it could unleash a "human tragedy."
Sanders said in a statement Tuesday afternoon: "The United States will continue to work tirelessly with its allies to find a lasting diplomatic solution to resolve hostilities in Syria under the auspices of UN Security Council Resolution 2254." # 39;
The Kremlin dismissed Trump's comments on Tuesday, describing Idlib, where insurgent jihadist factions dominate, as a "nest of terrorism." Spokesman Dmitry Peskov added: "We know that the armed forces of Syria are preparing to solve this problem."
Iran echoed that issue. & # 39; Terrorist groups [in Idlib] they have mixed with the people, "said Abbas Araqchi, deputy foreign minister, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency." They are using people as human shields. & # 39;
Russian and Syrian planes hit the rebel stronghold on Tuesday, a war monitor said, days before leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey met to discuss the expected offensive by the Syrian government against which Trump warned and concerned international groups would provoke a humanitarian disaster.
Since Russia's entry into the war on its side in 2015, Assad and his other close allies, Iran and a group of regional Shiite militias it supports, have forced the rebels from a succession of strongholds such as Aleppo, Eastern Ghouta and Deraa
For Assad, the defeat of the rebels in the northwestern province would mean breaking the last great bastion of active military opposition to his government, although other large areas also remain beyond his control.
Warplanes bombed the camp on Tuesday around Jisr al-Shughour at the western end of the rebel Idlib enclave after weeks of calm, killing 13 civilians but without combatants, according to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights and a rebel source.
A Syrian government minister said the Idlib site would likely be resolved by force. "Until now, military action is more likely than reconciliations," reconciliation minister Ali Haidar told Russian news agency Sputnik.
"Idlib is different from other regions because of the large number of fighters," Haidar said. "However, we can not say that there is no doorway to reconciliation."
Damascus uses the term "reconciliation" for negotiated rebel surrenders that have been carried out in some areas.
Half of Idlib's 3 million already fled their homes in other parts of Syria, according to the United Nations, and any offensive threatens new displacements and human misery.
It could also provoke a broader confrontation with Turkey, a supporter of the rebels, whose army has set up observation posts along Idlib's front lines to deter fights.
The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported that the Turkish armed forces were reinforcing the Idlib border with M60 tanks, and Reuters television filmed a convoy heading towards the border.
The air strikes on Tuesday came hours after Trump warned Assad and his allies not to attack "imprudently". to Idlib, saying that hundreds of thousands could die.
"The Russians and the Iranians would be committing a grave humanitarian error by participating in this potential human tragedy," Trump tweeted. "Hundreds of thousands of people could die." Do not let that happen!
The United Nations and aid groups have warned that a total assault on Idlib could trigger a humanitarian catastrophe on a scale not yet seen in the seven-year conflict in Syria.
A senior US general estimated that there were between 20,000 and 30,000 militants in Idlib, but said that if there were major military operations, "we can expect a humanitarian catastrophe" and urged operations that mitigate the risks to civilians.
Earlier on Monday, Iran called for militants to be "eliminated". of Idlib, while preparing for talks with Syria and Russia on facing the last great enclave held by the rebels opposed to Assad.
Syrian government forces are planning a gradual offensive in Idlib and surrounding areas held by insurgents fighting Assad, which has been backed by Russian and Iranian forces in the country's civil war.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington considers any government attack on Idlib to be an escalation of the Syrian war, and the State Department also warned that Washington would respond to any chemical attack by Damascus.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Damascus to discuss plans for a forthcoming summit between leaders of Iran, Russia and Turkey, which Tehran will host on September 7 to discuss Idlib, the Iranian news agency Fars reported.
Zarif also told state television: "Our efforts are for … the departure of Idlib terrorists that will take place at the lowest human cost."
He and Peskov said Idlib would be an important topic of debate at the September 7 summit between Russian Vladimir Putin, Turkish Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian Hassan Rouhani.
Turkey, which has long supported the anti-Assad rebels, has cooperated with Russia and Iran in talks over Syria in recent years and has troops in the Idlib region on an observation mission.
Trump took to Twitter on Monday to warn Assad about attacking refugees in the Syrian province
The United Nations and aid groups have warned that a total assault on Idlib could trigger a humanitarian catastrophe. In the photo above are the Syrians protesting against the regime and its ally Russia in the city of Maarrat al-Numan, controlled by the rebels, in the north of the province of Idlib.
Zarif met with Assad, Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem, who requested Iran to continue their support, according to Iran's Fars News.
"All Syrian territory must be preserved and all sects and groups must begin the reconstruction round as a single collective and the displaced must return to their families," Zarif said, according to Fars News.
"And the remaining terrorists in the remaining parts of Idlib must be cleared and the region must come back under the control of the Syrian people."
Assad's office said in a statement: "The two sides claimed that pressures from some Western states on Syria and Tehran will not prevent the two countries from continuing to defend their principles."
Last week, Iran's defense minister traveled to Damascus and signed an agreement for defense cooperation between the two countries with his Syrian counterpart.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said Iran will continue to support Syrian government forces in their battle in Idlib.
Zarif went to Sayeda Zeinab, a sanctuary south of Damascus revered by the Shiites, as his first stop on the trip, according to Fars News.