President Donald Trump on Thursday issued a warning to allies of the Syrian government waging a military offensive to regain rebel-held territory that relief groups say has displaced hundreds of thousands of civilians since last month.
“Russia, Syria, and Iran are killing, or on their way to killing, thousands of innocent civilians in Idlib Province,” he tweeted. “Don’t do it! Turkey is working hard to stop this carnage.”
According to The Associated Press, Syrian government forces allied with Russia and Iran have been shelling parts of Syria’s Idlib province since late last month in an attempt to retake one of the last strongholds of the U.S.-allied rebels.
The unrest has sent more than 216,000 civilians fleeing from their homes, relief group Syrian Response Coordination Group told the AP.
The assault from Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces comes months after Trump abruptly withdrew U.S. forces from the war-torn country’s northern border with Turkey, asserting his preference for regional powers to play a more prominent role while leaving the U.S. with little leverage in the ongoing civil war there. The move also paved the way for a Turkish incursion that killed both U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters and civilians.
According to the AP, the Syrian government’s offensive has driven civilians north toward the Turkish border as troops have pushed toward the major rebel-held town Maaret al-Numan, which sits on a key highway connecting two of Syria’s major cities — its capital, Damascus, and its largest, Aleppo.
In a statement issued earlier this week, the a spokesman for the United Nations secretary-general estimated that at least 30,000 civilians had been displaced by the offensive in the past week alone, and called for “an immediate cessation of hostilities” in the province while demanding “sustained, unimpeded and safe humanitarian access to civilians, including through the cross-border modality” for those fleeing.
Dropping temperatures and heavy rainfall have compounded treacherous conditions for displaced civilians.
Shortly after the president issued his warning to key regional players, he resumed complaints about his impeachment last week, appearing to concede that despite his dismissal of the monthslong inquiry as a “hoax,” it might be hampering his leverage on the world stage.
“Despite all of the great success that our Country has had over the last 3 years, it makes it much more difficult to deal with foreign leaders (and others) when I am having to constantly defend myself against the Do Nothing Democrats & their bogus Impeachment Scam,” he argued, asserting consequences were “Bad for USA!”