A senior Turkish official has confirmed that at least 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in an airstrike by Syrian “regime forces” in north-west Syria. Soldiers with wounds are in the province of Idlib, said Rahmi Dogan, the governor of Hatay province in Turkey. Many media increased the death toll.
Turkey subsequently retaliated against government targets for Syrian forces. Syrian forces backed by Russia are trying to take Idlib back from rebels backed by Turkish soldiers. The Syrian authorities have so far declined to comment publicly on the latest escalation in Idlib, the last province in Syria to remain in opposition hands.
After President Recep Tayyip Erdogan conducted an urgent top-level security meeting late Thursday in Ankara, the Turkish military started hitting back at the Syrian targets. Minister of Defence Hulusi Akar and senior Turkish military commanders immediately went to the Syrian border to direct a wave of ground and air attacks against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Soldiers Rush for Treatment to Turkey
President Erdogan needs Syrian government forces to withdraw from areas where Turkey has set up military airbases. It has repeatedly threatened to attack them if they have not stopped their advance. But the government of Syria and Russia have dismissed his appeal to pull back to the 2018 ceasefire lines agreed. Russia has also suspected Turkey of breaking the truce in 2018 by backing artillery fire on insurgents.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is a watchdog based in the UK. It states at least 34 Turkish troops lost lives during the airstrike on Thursday evening. Mr Dogan states soldiers with injury rush to Turkey for treatment.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has spoken to Turkey’s main member of the military alliance, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, by phone.
In the meantime, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has expressed “serious concern” over the recent escalation, calling for an urgent ceasefire. A full-scale conflict between Turkey and Syria is in the scene.