France at UN warns of 'new Aleppo' as Syria steps up Idlib attacks

United Nations (United States) (AFP) –


A repeat of the bloody Syrian battle that devastated Aleppo must be avoided at all costs, France's UN ambassador said Friday, as the Security Council met to discuss escalating fighting in northwest Syria.

Syrian forces and their Russian allies have stepped up air strikes and shelling in the jihadist-controlled Idlib region since late April, raising alarm over a possible all-out assault by Damascus to seize the territory.

"A new Aleppo must at all cost be prevented in Idlib," French Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters ahead of the closed-door council meeting.

Syrian forces backed by Russian air power waged a long battle for Aleppo that ended in late 2016, costing thousands of lives and leaving the historic city in ruins.

"We need to send a very clear message to all those who might be tempted by an escalation in Idlib," Delattre said.

"If it happens, then you will have a humanitarian catastrophe there -- it's written -- and on top of it you will destroy the perspective of a political process that we all want to give a boost to."

Belgium, Germany and Kuwait, three non-permanent council members, requested the urgent meeting after hospitals and schools were hit by strikes. More than 150,000 people have been displaced in one week alone.

The three countries are leading the council's efforts to address the humanitarian crisis in Syria, now in its ninth year of war.

Since April 29, 12 health facilities including two major hospitals have been hit in northwest Syria, according to the World Health Organization.

About three million people live in Idlib, the last major bastion to remain outside the control of the Syrian government.

"The situation is dramatic and deteriorating," said German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen, who said civilian infrastructure was being targeted in the bombing campaign.

Diplomats said the meeting was to draw attention to the crisis, but any concrete action would likely be opposed by Russia, a veto-wielding council member.