WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Thursday warned Russia and Iran to avoid killing “innocent civilians” in an ongoing Syrian conflict that has forced an exodus of residents from Idlib province to already unstable areas near the Turkish border.
Trump, who issued the warning by tweet from his Palm Beach, Fla., resort, appeared to be responding to reports that as many as 200,000 civilians have fled Idlib province as forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are bombing rebel-held territory.
“Russia, Syria, and Iran are killing, or on their way to killing, thousands of innocent civilians in Idlib Province. Don’t do it! Turkey is working hard to stop this carnage,” the president wrote in a tweet on Thursday.
Syrian forces have been bombarding southern and eastern Idlib province, the last rebel stronghold in the war-torn country, since late November. A ground offensive that began last week has displaced more people and government forces have captured more than 40 villages and hamlets, according to the Syrian army and opposition activists.
President Donald Trump looks on during a signing ceremony on S.1790, the "National Defense Authorization Act for FY2020" at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. (Photo: Nicholas Kamm, Getty Images)
The Syrian Response Coordination Group, a relief group active in northwestern Syria, said 216,632 people have fled their homes. Many of them are expected to be headed to the Turkey-Syria border. Turkey remains a close U.S. ally, despite bipartisan concerns about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s invasion of Syria this year.
Trump faced a backlash in October for abruptly announcing his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, virtually clearing the way for Turkey’s invasion days later. The president reasserted his embrace of Erdogan during a White House visit last month, saying he is a “big fan” of his Turkish counterpart.
The president is staying at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida for the holidays. He spent much of the morning after Christmas slamming House Democrats amid deliberations over a Senate trial to consider two articles of impeachment approved last week. He directed most of his ire at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and said that the impeachment had made it harder for him to deal with foreign leaders.
Russia, Syria, and Iran are killing, or on their way to killing, thousands of innocent civilians in Idlib Province. Don’t do it! Turkey is working hard to stop this carnage.
Contributing: Associated Press
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