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Turkish army retaliates against 'all known' regime targets

Local | 2020-02-28 03:46:09
Turkish army retaliates against 'all known' regime targets
The Turkish army is retaliating with artillery fire at regime targets in Syria after an airstrike killed 33 Turkish soldiers in the northwestern Idlib province, two Turkish security officials said on Friday.

“All known” Syrian regime targets are under fire by Turkish air and land support units, Turkey’s communications director Fahrettin Altun said separately on Friday, according to state-run Anadolu news agency. Turkey has decided to “respond in kind” to the attack by the Syrian regime, Altun added.

Turkey will no longer stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe, a senior Turkish official said late on Thursday as President Tayyip Erdogan chaired an emergency meeting.

In anticipation of the imminent arrival of refugees from Idlib, Turkish police, coast guard and border security officials have been ordered to stand down on refugees’ land and sea crossings, the Turkish official told Reuters.

Turkey hosts some 3.7 million Syrian refugees. Under a deal agreed in 2016, the European Union has provided billions of euros in aid in return for Ankara agreeing to stem the influx of migrants into Europe.

Bashar al-Assad’s forces, supported by relentless Russian air strikes, have pushed hard in recent months to retake the last large rebel-held region in northwest Syria after nine years of war that has displaced millions and killed hundreds of thousands.

NATO-member Turkey has sent thousands of troops and heavy military hardware into Idlib province to back its allied rebels against the offensive.

Erdogan, who has warned Turkey would push back the Syrian forces unless they pulled back, held an emergency meeting late on Thursday with his staff due to the attack, two Turkish officials said.

Syrian activists reported early Thursday that six Turkish soldiers were killed in regime airs trikes on the Turkish observation point in Belyoun village.

So far, at least 57 Turkish soldiers have been confirmed dead in three weeks.

Turkey set up 12 observation posts up around a "de-escalation zone" in Idlib under a 2017 agreement with Russia and Iran, but several now find themselves behind Syrian regime front lines.

Ankara has sent thousands of troops and truckloads of equipment into the region, in Syria's northwest corner bordering Turkey, to support the rebels and President Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to push back Bashar al-Assad's forces.

The retaliation by Russian-led regime forces followed a painful defeat in Idlib region.

 Syrian opposition factions on Thursday took the key town of Saraqeb and 5 more villages from Russian-led regime forces near the strategic highways of M4 and M5 that links between the northern Aleppo province with Latakia and Damascus.

The counterattack by rebel fighters and their allies cuts the main Damascus-Aleppo highway, which passes through the town, and reverses one of the principal gains of the devastating offensive the government launched against the country's last major rebel bastion in Idlib province in December.

State-run news agency SANA acknowledged that there were "fierce clashes" between the army and "terrorist groups on the Saraqeb front".

The correspondent saw rebel fighters deploy inside the town in large numbers, where they come under attack from regime forces on the outskirts as well as from the air.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory said that the air strikes were carried out by regime ally Russia, which has come under heavy Western criticism for the high civilian death toll from its bombing campaign.

State media accused the "terrorists" of launching car bombings and other suicide attacks against regime forces attempting to retake the town which they had held since February 8.

It said that the army had inflicted heavy losses on the attackers, despite the military support it said they had received from neighboring Turkey.

Some 980,0000 civilians have fled the government offensive, raising fears in Ankara of a new mass influx of refugees.

Turkey already hosts the world's largest number of Syrian refugees with around 3.6 million people placing an increasingly unpopular burden on public services.

The United Nations has warned repeatedly that the fighting in Idlib has the potential to create the most serious humanitarian crisis since the start of the civil war in 2011.


Zaman Al Wasl Agencies 

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