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Damascus says 'determined to confront' Turkish attack

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Damascus (AFP)

The Syrian government on Monday pledged to repel Turkish forces attacking its Russia-backed troops in northwestern Syria as tensions spike between Damascus and Ankara.

"Syria is determined to confront the flagrant Turkish aggression," state news agency SANA reported a source at the foreign ministry as saying.

It would "put an end to all Turkish interferences to preserve the integrity and unity of Syrian land", it said.

Since December, Syrian regime forces have led a deadly military offensive against the last major opposition stronghold of Idlib, where Turkey supports some rebel groups.

The assault on the jihadist-dominated region has caused almost a million people to flee their homes and shelters in the middle of winter.

"The fate of this attack is inevitable failure, especially as far as reviving and saving the exhausted terrorist groups" there, the source said, referring to both opposition fighters and jihadists.

The source called for the international community to condemn the offensive.

On Sunday, Turkey confirmed a full military operation in northwest Syria after an air strike on Thursday blamed on Damascus killed 34 Turkish soldiers.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, says Turkish drone strikes and artillery fire have killed more than 90 Syrian soldiers since Friday.

Damascus on Sunday said it shot down three Turkish drones in the region, while two Syrian warplanes were downed though the pilots escaped unharmed.

Turkey has previously led three incursions into Syrian territory since 2016.

The latest operation against Syria's Kurdish minority last year saw Turkey seize a 120-kilometre (70-mile) strip of Syrian territory along its southern border.

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