Turkey hits 'all known' Syrian govt positions after soldiers killed in Idlib

Turkish forces stationed in Hazano, near Syria's Idlib, on February 11, 2020.
Turkish forces stationed in Hazano, near Syria's Idlib, on February 11, 2020. © Khalil Ashawi, REUTERS

The Turkish army retaliated with artillery fire at Syrian government targets in Syria after an airstrike killed at least 33 Turkish soldiers in the northwestern Idlib province, Turkish officials said on Friday.


The United Nations on Thursday (New York time, GMT-4) called for urgent action in northwest Syria, warning that, "the risk of greater escalation grows by the hour."

"The Secretary-General reiterates his call for an immediate ceasefire and expresses particular concern about the risk to civilians from escalating military actions," spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

"Without urgent action, the risk of even greater escalation grows by the hour."

'All known' targets

The UN statement came as Turkey announced that "all known" Syrian government targets were under fire by Turkish air and land support units, according to state-run Anadolu news agency, quoting Turkey's communications director Fahrettin Altun on Friday. Turkey has decided to "respond in kind" to the attack by the Syrian government, Altun added.

This announcement immediately after an air strike by Syrian regime forces against Turkish military in Idlib, as reported by Anadolu.

Turkish officials gave a death toll of 33.

After the attack, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held an extraordinary meeting on the situation in Idlib at his presidential complex in Ankara, attended by ministers and military officials.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg by telephone, according to state-run Anadolu news agency. 

Stoltenberg condemned the strikes, according to a spokesman, describing them as "indiscriminate".

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a local monitor, gave a higher death toll, claiming 34 Turkish soldiers were killed.

The deaths are the largest number of fatalities suffered by Turkish forces in a single day since Ankara started sending thousands of troops into Idlib in recent weeks in a bid to halt an advance by Syrian forces and their Russian allies.

Russia and Turkey agreed in 2018 to create a demilitarised zone in Idlib in an accord that has since fallen through. Fighting in the northwestern Syrian province has sent hundreds of thousands of displaced people towards the Turkish border.

Speaking in Washington, the US ambassador to NATO said Turkey should learn from clashes in Syria who its true friends are and drop its purchase from Russia of a major missile defence system.

The Turks should see "who is their reliable partner and who isn't", Kay Bailey Hutchison told reporters.

"They see what Russia is, they see what they're doing now, and if they are attacking Turkish troops, then that should outweigh everything else that is happening between Turkey and Russia," she added.

No-fly zone

US Senator Lindsey Graham on Thursday called for the establishment of a no-fly zone over Syria's Idlib and called on President Donald Trump to help stop the killing of civilians there by Syrian government forces backed by Russia and Iran.

"The world is sitting on its hands and watching the destruction of Idlib by Assad, Iran, and the Russians," Graham, a Republican and an ally of Trump, said in a statement. "I am confident if the world, led by the United States, pushed back against Iran, Russia, and Assad that they would stand down, paving the way for political negotiations to end this war in Syria."

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces have pushed hard in recent months to retake the last large rebel-held region in northwestern Syria after nine years of war that has displaced millions and killed hundreds of thousands.



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