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UN commission calls on rebels to leave cities in Syria's Idlib

AFP  |  Beirut 

A UN commission on Wednesday called on rebel groups in Syria's province to leave urban areas to protect civilians from any looming regime assault.

The proposal comes after the United Nations' for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, last week suggested a deadline be set for fighters in to pull back from its cities.

UN agencies and relief organisations have warned repeatedly that any major assault on the province of Idlib, which borders Turkey, could spark one of the worst humanitarian disasters of Syria's seven-year war.

On Wednesday, the on called for jihadists and opposition fighters to leave the most densely populated areas in the region where some three million people live.

"Most of those terrorist groups and other armed groups, they are in the cities. Perhaps one wonderful scenario is: leave the cities," said.

Hany Magally, a fellow panel member, said: "Shouldn't the armed groups move out and spare the civilian population?" and adjacent areas are largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance led by Al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate, as well as rival rebels. HTS controls the provincial capital Idlib city.

The northwestern region has seen its population almost double with the arrival of Syrians displaced from other parts of the country, many of whom already depend on aid.

"All the other disasters would be minor events compared to what can happen in Idlib," Pinheiro said.

On Friday, rebel backer and regime allies Russian and failed to reach an agreement in to avoid a regime assault on Idlib.

On Tuesday, UN warned a full-scale battle on Idlib "would unleash a humanitarian nightmare unlike any seen in the blood-soaked Syrian conflict".

More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced in Syria's war since it started in 2011.

In the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, US-backed fighters were battling to oust IS from the town of on the east of the Euphrates, the most significant remnant of the jihadists' "caliphate" which once spanned and

The operation "will clear remnants of (IS) from northeastern along the Middle River Valley toward the Syria-border," the US-led coalition said.

Despite a number of military campaigns against them, IS fighters are still present in Deir Ezzor, as well as in the vast desert that stretches from to the Iraqi border.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, September 13 2018. 02:05 IST