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As fighting between Syria and Turkey escalates, Idlib faces mounting humanitarian crisis

In northwest Syria, Idlib province has become home to hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, many of whom sought to escape the regime of Bashar al-Assad by fleeing to Turkey. Now those civilians face a worsening humanitarian situation, stranded outside during winter amid an intensifying conflict, as Turkey supports Syrian rebels fighting the Russian-backed Assad regime. Nick Schifrin reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Mounting chaos in Northwestern Syria touched off heavy fighting and urgent diplomacy today, and set a new wave of refugees in motion.

    Foreign affairs correspondent Nick Schifrin has our report.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    On the border that separates Turkey from Syria, the two countries' militaries are hammering each other.

    Turkey launched multiple attacks against Syrian government forces, in retaliation for Syrian airstrikes that killed 33 Turkish soldiers last night.

  • Hulusi Akar (through translator):

    Over 200 Syrian regime targets were heavily struck by aircraft, unmanned aerial aircraft and land-based resources immediately following this heinous attack.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Inside Syria, the Turkish military is siding with Syrian rebels in Idlib against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his ally Russia.

    Nearby, the Turkish military has deployed to outposts along near the border. Syrian civilians are forced into refugee camps, where children have little to defend against a new adversary, the cold.

    These displaced families have spent years fleeing the violence and are hoping to escape to Turkey.

  • Mustafa (through translator):

    If the Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies are in charge, then we have no option but to go to Turkey, and, from Turkey, go to Europe.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    But, in Turkey, Syrian refugees who have spent months or years sheltering are trying to enter Greece, after Turkey hinted at opening its Western border. Some migrants aren't waiting, boarding dinghies to make the perilous journey by sea, stoking memories of 2015, when almost a million refugees risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean and seek asylum in Europe.

    To try and reduce tensions, today, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Erdogan also spoke with President Trump.

    And following an emergency meeting, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia and Syria to stop bombing civilians.

  • Jens Stoltenberg:

    I call on them to stop their offensive, to respect international law.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    The U.S. says it supports the Turkish operation, but the U.S. has not yet provided material support to help end the crisis.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Nick Schifrin.

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