38500 flee hostilities in Syria's Idlib in two weeks

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Turkey sent in military reinforcements Thursday to beef up its positions inside Syria's last rebel bastion, Idlib, activists reported, even as the Turkish defense minister said Ankara is still trying with Russian Federation and Iran to prevent a humanitarian tragedy in the case of threats of a Syrian government offensive.

Turkey deployed hundreds of its soldiers to the observation posts after a de-escalation agreement reached with Russian Federation and Iran past year to freeze the lines of the conflict, effectively placing Ankara as a protector of the province.

The Nusra leaders have also stressed their intention to fight the government forces along with other ultra-radical groups in that province in northwestern Syria.

Idlib province and the adjacent rural areas form the largest piece of territory still held by Syria's beleaguered rebels, who have been worn down by government victories in recent months.

Turkey stands to lose the most from a battle on its border that is sure to have a destabilizing effect on the country and areas it controls inside Syria. "We confirmed our support of the Nord Stream-2 project, which is of a commercial nature and its implementation will really strengthen the energy security of the European continent", Lavrov said. "Of course we don't have anything against fighting terrorists but something has to be done to protect the rights of the 3 million people and (including) 1 million children".

Last week, the United Nations warned that such an offensive would likely lead to the "worst humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century".

Turkey fears a humanitarian crisis in Idlib, which straddles Turkey's borders and is home to more than 3 million people.

On Thursday two Russians resembling the men Britain accuses of jetting to England to try to murder Skripal said they were innocent tourists who had flown to London for fun and visited the city of Salisbury to see its cathedral.

President Erdogan of Turkey had been hoping to persuade President Putin of Russian Federation and President Rouhani of Iran, both of whom are backing Assad in the warzone, to agree to a ceasefire to spare the estimated three million people... "The operation is not cancelled, but we have time".

For Russia and Iran, recapturing Idlib would deal a decisive defeat to the opposition and stamp out the last remains of the rebellion against Assad that began in 2011.

Two rebel sources in the northwest said some government forces have been observed withdrawing from frontlines in the Hama region, which adjoins Idlib, this week.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had recorded the deaths of 364 792 people, almost a third of them civilians, since protests erupted in March 2011 against President Bashar al-Assad.