White House Warns Syria Against Chemical Weapons Use

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The attacks were carried out after the US government urged the Syrian government, which is assisted by Russian Federation and Iran in its civil war, not to attack the rebel stronghold where approximately 3 million people live.

President Trump "has warned that such an attack would be a reckless escalation of an already tragic conflict and would risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of people", the administration said.

US President Donald Trump warned Assad on Monday not to "recklessly attack" Idlib and the White House strongly cautioned him on Tuesday against using chemical weapons.

Turkey and the USA said they were racing find a diplomatic solution to avoid "a serious massacre" in Syria's Idlib province ahead of a critical summit on Friday which is likely to decide the fate of the rebel stronghold.

The US says it will respond "swiftly and appropriately" if Syrian President Bashar Assad uses chemical weapons "again", suggesting that Damascus was behind an April "attack" which Moscow says was entirely staged. Syrian forces are amassing around the northwestern province of Idlib, in preparation for the assault. The UN's Syria peace envoy Staffan de Mistura said Russian Federation and Turkey held "the key for (a) soft solution to the Idlib issue" and urged them to help avert a humanitarian disaster.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are scheduled to meet in Tehran on Friday for a trilateral summit on Syria.

The verbal clash came as towns and villages in the northern Idlib province, where Syria's rebels are holed up, came under intense airstrikes, killing at least eight people, according to a search and rescue group and a conflict monitoring group.

Seized from government forces in 2015, Idlib and surrounding areas form the last major swath of territory still in rebel hands.

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Tuesday's bombardment hit several areas held by the jihadist-led Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance, among them the large town of Jisr al-Shughur, but also areas held by rival Turkish-backed rebels, including the town of Ariha.

The Syrian regime has recently announced plans to launch a major military offensive to the area, which is controlled by various armed opposition groups.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov also told Reuters that the situation in Idlib is of ongoing concern for Russian Federation.

But he stressed that there are some 2.9 million civilians in the province - including about a million children who "are not terrorists".

The U.S. has twice struck Syrian military installations in response to alleged poison gas attacks.

According to an upcoming book by reporter Bob Woodward, Trump wanted to kill al-Assad after he launched the chemical weapons on civilians past year.

FILE - U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis attends a news conference at Libertador Building in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Aug. 15, 2018.

Mattis reportedly told Trump he would get "right on it" in an apparent attempt to pacify the president, but hung up the phone and instead told a senior aide, "We're not going to do any of that".