Turkey says 5 soldiers killed in Syrian shelling in Idlib
Istanbul/Beirut (dpa) – Five Turkish soldiers were killed on Monday in Syria’s north-western province of Idlib, Turkey’s Defence Ministry said, as it blamed the attack on Syrian government forces.
Five additional soldiers were wounded in “intense artillery shelling” by Syrian forces, the ministry said in a statement.
It said the targets were identified quickly and that retaliation was swift.
Last week, eight Turkish military and civilian personnel and 13 Syrian soldiers were killed in rare direct attacks in the rebel stronghold.
The major escalation in the battle for Idlib could also create fissures between Ankara and Moscow, whose current ceasefire there was reached in January.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that developments in Idlib have become “unbearable” and accused Russia of “turning a blind eye” while an area where 3-4 million people live is attacked.
He said nearly 1 million people were marching towards Turkey’s border. Erdogan cautioned that Turkey already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees and has “no tolerance for a new migration wave.”
Meanwhile, Russian warplanes hit a village crowded with refugees in northern Syria, killing at least nine people, including six children, a war monitor said.
The airstrikes targeted Abean, in the western countryside of Aleppo province, after midnight, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The toll is likely to rise as several people were trapped under the rubble and many of the 20 wounded are in critical condition, it added.
Ibrahim al-Hajj, a spokesman for the White Helmets rescue team, told dpa that most of the casualties were Syrian refugees who had fled Aleppo’s countryside.
In northern Aleppo, a car bomb exploded in the city of Afrin, which is controlled by Turkish-backed rebels, killing six people and wounding 23 others, the monitor said.
The mainly Kurdish enclave of Afrin was captured by the Turkish military and allied Syrian rebel fighters during an offensive in 2018. The rebels have blamed similar bombings over the last few months on the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
On Sunday, the Syrian army said it had regained control of 600 square kilometres in the rebel strongholds of Idlib and Aleppo over the past few days. Damascus’ forces are backed by Russian airpower.
Turkey has been sending in more military reinforcements into Idlib as government forces make advances. Three of 12 Turkish military observation posts in Idlib are already behind the Syrian forces’ front line.
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