Idlib 'catastrophe' could drive 2 million refugees into Turkey - UN

The ongoing Russia-backed Syrian offensive in Idlib province, the country's last rebel-held stronghold, threatens to send up to two million refugees fleeing into Turkey, unleashing a new humanitarian crisis, the United Nations said on Monday. 

Turkey is already hosting some 4 million refugees, including 3.6 million Syrians, while some 250,000 people have been displaced since the Bashar Assad regime offensive began in Idlib in late April. 

"Our fear is if this continues, and if the numbers continue soaring, and if the conflict intensifies, that we could see really hundreds of thousands, a million, two, heading towards the borders with Turkey," U.N. Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, Panos Moumtzis, told Reuters in Geneva. 

Moumtzis said that the situation was deteriorating and a September deal between Russia and Turkey to deescalate the fighting there was effectively no longer in place. Aid organisations have been encouraged to share their locations with the warring parties to avoid being hit. But after repeated air strikes on hospitals, many aid workers distrust such requests, Moumtzis said.

"It's a catastrophe...for the sake of humanity, there has to be an intervention," he said. "A few months ago, we asked to make sure that this nightmare scenario will not take place. Actually, it's unfolding in front of our own eyes as we speak."