White House pledges to 'respond swiftly' if Assad uses chemical weapons again

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Even so, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that such an attack will be blamed on Damascus and will "serve as another reason for the United States, the United Kingdom and France to hit Syrian government targets with air strikes".

More than half of Idlib is controlled by militants from Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), while much of the rest is held by rebels backed by Turkey.

His comments come as Syrian troops mass near the northwestern region of Idlib for a major assault that is raising fears of a humanitarian catastrophe on a scale not yet seen in the seven-year-old conflict.

Syrian rebel fighters from the recently formed "National Liberation Front" reinforce a position along the front near the village of Abu Dali in the Idlib province countryside on September 1, 2018, in anticipation of an upcoming government forces offensive.

Global calls mounted on Wednesday (Sep 5) to avoid a "massacre" by regime forces in Syria's last rebel-held province of Idlib, two days before a summit between key powers backing the government and opposition. "The United States sends the ball into the corner of Russian Federation and Russia into the corner of the U.S.", he said.

Turkey, Russia and Iran past year designated Idlib a so-called "de-escalation zone", but that deal did not cover former Al-Qaeda affiliate HTS.

On Tuesday Russia, an ally of president Bashar al-Assad's regime, resumed air strikes on Idlib after a 22-day pause. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported nine people killed.

"We know that the Syrian armed forces are getting ready to solve this problem", President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, calling Idlib a "pocket of terrorism".

The future of Idlib is likely to be determined at a summit on Friday, when the leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey will gather in Tehran to discuss the future of Syria.

Russian presidential advisor Yuri Ushakov described the meeting as "very important".

Trump has warned that an attack "would be a reckless escalation of an already tragic conflict", the White House said, risking the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

The United States warned Syria Tuesday it will respond "swiftly and appropriately" if it uses chemical weapons against its people.

Western countries rushed to blame the incident on Damascus, with the U.S. launching a missile attack against Shayrat Airbase in Syria's Homs Province on April 7, 2017.