Idlib in Syria – Turkey speaks of several soldiers killed

Turkey has reportedly launched a counter-offensive to kill four soldiers in the Syrian province of Idlib. The Ministry of Defense in Ankara spoke of artillery shelling by Syrian government troops, which also injured nine Turkish soldiers.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey subsequently launched a counterattack, the ongoing one. It was not possible to leave such an attack unanswered, he said. "We will continue to ask for an account of this." According to Erdogan, between 30 and 35 Syrian soldiers were killed in the counter-strike. He urged Russia not to "hamper" the ongoing military operation. The opposition Syrian Human Rights Observatory spoke of six deaths and more than 20 injuries by government forces. According to the UK-based organization, Turkey had moved around 320 military vehicles to Idlib on Sunday.

The Russian military said that Turkey had not informed about its operation in Idlib. They came under fire from Syrian government troops who wanted to act against "terrorists" west of Sarakib in the Idlib province.

Idlib is the last major rebel area in Syria after almost nine years of civil war. It is controlled by the Haiat Tahrir al-Sham militia, which is close to Al Qaeda. Syria and Russia argue that their attacks in the region are directed against terrorists. In the north, Turkey, which has welcomed more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees in recent years, has cordoned off its border.

The violence in Idlib had recently increased – although Russia announced a new ceasefire three weeks ago. Erdogan had accused Russia last week of not adhering to agreements with Ankara. Turkey supports the rebels in the Syrian civil war, and the Turkish army has twelve observation posts in Idlib. These were built on the basis of an agreement concluded in September 2018 between Russia, the main ally of Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad, and Turkey.
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