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Top US general warns against major assault on Syria’s Idlib

Sep 05,2018 - Last updated at Sep 05,2018

ATHENS (Reuters) — Top US military officer Marine General Joseph Dunford warned on Tuesday that a major Syrian military assault on the rebel-held enclave of Idlib would lead to a “humanitarian catastrophe” and instead recommended more narrowly tailored operations against militants there.

The northern province and surrounding areas are also home to some 3 million civilians.

Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said there was no doubt about the risks to civilians given Idlib’s terrain and difficult operating environment.

“We don’t see any way that significant military operations are going to be beneficial to the people of Syria,” Dunford told reporters during a trip to Athens.

Last week, a source close to Damascus said the government was preparing a phased offensive to recover Idlib province, but Turkey, whose army has a string of observation posts around the edge of the rebel area, has warned against such an assault.

Dunford estimated there were 20,000 and 30,000 militants inside Idlib but said it was still unclear to him how large of an operation was being planned by the Russian-backed Syrian forces to clear them out of the enclave.

Dunford recommended more tailored operations against the militants.

Pressed about the best course, Dunford said: “More of a discussion between the Turks, the Syrians and the Russians at more precise counterterrorism operations — as opposed to large scale conventional operations — would be the right approach.”

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