United Nations says Syria's Idlib civilians should not be taken hostages

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Russian Presidential Aide Yuri Ushakov earlier said about the plans to hold these negotiations.

MOSCOW - The Kremlin confirmed on Friday that it was preparing for a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan on Monday in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdulrahman said neither Russian nor Syria warplanes had been attacking the area since around midday Monday.

Idlib is the last remaining stronghold of various jihadist groups that once sought to overthrow the government of President Bashar Assad, with support from the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other regional powers.

As world leaders scrambled for a last-minute deal to halt the attack, Syrian regime troops and their allies prepared to retake the last significant patch of opposition-held territory.

It said a military offensive could trigger the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century. "Every time it follows us, we escape a meter to the north and leave it up to God, where will we go?" he said.

Syria's conflict has killed more than 350,000 people and forced millions more out of their homes, but the United Nations has warned that a full-blown attack on Idlib could bring unprecedented suffering. Most of the displaced headed toward the border with Turkey, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, packing already overcrowded camps there.

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More than 360 000 people have been killed across war-ravaged Syria in seven years, a monitoring group said on Thursday, in a new toll for the brutal conflict.

This is contrary to worldwide humanitarian law, the OCHA spokesperson said, adding that one of the hospitals was also in a protected "deconfliction zone", whose coordinates had been given to the warring parties to spare it from attack.

It came amid rising global concern that a looming Syrian government assault against rebels in the northwest province of Idlib would be a "bloodbath". We're ready to fight against terrorists, and we also want to achieve a political settlement of the Syrian crisis and are ready for cooperation in these issues.

A senior Syrian rebel said Turkey had sent dozens of armored vehicles and tanks, as well as hundreds of special forces personnel to Idlib, a move he said showed Idlib would not share the fate of the other rebel regions.

But Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, in comments on Wednesday evening, indicated that there were continued contacts with Russian Federation and Iran for a diplomatic solution.

The report said most battles were marked by war crimes including launching indiscriminate attacks, deliberately attacking protected objects, using prohibited weapons, pillaging and forced displacement, including by armed groups.