Sept. 10 (UPI) -- The United Nations warned of a potential for the "worst humanitarian catastrophe" of the century in Syria as thousands were internally displaced in the rebel-held enclave of Idlib.
Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland Monday, Mark Lowcock, chief of the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said more than 30,000 people were already displaced by Russian and Syrian airstrikes and another 800,000 could soon follow, The Independent reported.
"There needs to be ways of dealing with this problem that don't turn the next few months in Idlib into the worst humanitarian catastrophe with the biggest loss of life of the 21st century," said Lowcock. "We are very actively preparing for the possibility that civilians move in huge numbers in multiple directions."
U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said the United States, Britain and France agreed Syria would be met with a "much stronger response" compared with previous air strikes if its government conducted another chemical weapon attack, The Guardian reported.
"We've tried to convey the message in recent days that if there's a third use of chemical weapons, the response will be much stronger," Bolton said on Monday.
The majority of those displaced in Idlib have moved toward the border with Turkey, where defense minister Hulusi Akar called for a cease-fire after 17 people were injured in bombing raids in the province on Monday.
U.N. special envoy Staffan de Mistura was working with Turkey and Russia in Geneva Monday to seek non-military solutions to the conflicts.
In late August, de Mistura warned of a "perfect storm" facing Idlib amid the suspected strikes by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Russian-backed government forces to clear militants from the al-Qaida and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham -- also known as the al-Nusra Front -- militant groups from the area.