A mass exodus of civilians from the last rebel-held stronghold in Syria has begun

A mass exodus of civilians from the last rebel-held stronghold in Syria has begun as thousands of people flee towards the Turkish border in the face of a fierce new military assault by Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies.

As many as 30,000 people have left the area around the town of Maarat al-Numan after four days of airstrikes and heavy shelling paved the way for Syrian government troops to push deeper into north-western Idlib province.

The idea was suggested up by L’Eryn Detraz, a native of Cow Island and a missionary currently stationed in Ohio, according to a statement posted to the Facebook page of the Catholic diocese of Lafayette. Cow Island, which is not a true island, sits around 30 miles southwest of the Louisiana town.

“Maybe it’s a nice present,” he quipped. “Maybe it’s a present where he sends me a beautiful vase as opposed to a missile test.”

North Korea warned Washington earlier this month of a possible “Christmas gift” after its leader Kim Jong Un gave the United States until the end of the year to propose new concessions in talks over his country’s nuclear arsenal.

The Turk-Arab Media Association, which is linked to the Turkish government and broke the news of Khashoggi’s disappearance, said: “The decisions made today are aimed at closing the case rather than illuminating it.” The organisation also demanded that the Saudi authorities reveal where Khashoggi’s remains are.

Britain, a key Saudi ally, avoided criticising the trial. The Foreign Office said Khashoggi’s family deserved to see justice done “for his brutal murder. Saudi Arabia must ensure all of those responsible are held to account and that such an atrocity can never happen again”.

‘He stood up and gave me three carnations from underneath his pillow. They were the last flowers he brought me,’ the real-life Lyudmila recalls. 

‘I shall remember until the end of my life how we stood by the window together. We didn’t know this was the last time we would share a romantic moment.’