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Idlib: 19 soldiers killed in Turkish drone strikes, opposition forces take 7 towns

| 2020-03-02 02:39:57
Idlib: 19 soldiers killed in Turkish drone strikes, opposition forces take 7 towns
Turkish drone strikes in northern Idlib province killed 19 regime soldiers on Sunday, a war monitor reported, as tensions soared between Damascus and Ankara.  

The 19 died in strikes on a military convoy in the Jabal al-Zawiya area and a base near Maaret al-Numan city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Turkish-backed forces have captured seven towns in Jabal al-Zawiya on Sunday, taking advantage from Turkish drones and smart missiles that paved the way for their advance. 

The report came hours after Turkey shot down two Syrian warplanes, in an escalating offensive against the Damascus regime in the country's northwestern province of Idlib.

Following weeks of violence in and around Idlib, Turkey confirmed the launch of a full military operation against Russian-backed Syrian forces after 34 Turkish soldiers died last week in an air strike blamed on Damascus.

Tensions have intensified between rebel backer Turkey and the regime's main ally Moscow, but Ankara has insisted it does not want to clash directly with Russian forces.

Turkey has 12 observation posts established in rebel-held Idlib following a 2018 deal between Ankara and Moscow signed in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

But the regime recently has pressed ahead with an assault, killing hundreds of civilians and forcing a million to flee from their homes in the region.

Rebel-supporter Turkey and Damascus ally Russia previously worked closely to prevent a regime offensive in Idlib despite being on opposing sides of the nine-year war.

Erdogan on Saturday called on Russia to "get out of our way" in Idlib and leave Turkey "face to face with the regime" in Idlib.

The latest developments has strained relations between Ankara and Moscow but the Kremlin hopes Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan will hold talks in Moscow on March 5 or March 6, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday, Interfax news agency reported.

The talks will not be easy, but both leaders confirm their focus on resolving the situation in Syria’s Idlib region, where the two countries are backing opposing sides in a conflict, Peskov said.

Turkey's defense minister Hulusi Akar  said on Sunday his country does not intend to confront Russia as tensions escalate in Syria, where the regime is advancing into the last rebel stronghold.

Referring to losses inflicted on Syria, he said Turkey had "neutralized" more than 2,200 Syrian troops, 103 tanks and eight helicopters.

Zaman Al Wasl with Agencies

Zaman Al Wasl
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