Syrian regime kills two Turkish soldiers as Idlib airstrikes continue

Syrian regime kills two Turkish soldiers as Idlib airstrikes continue
The Syrian regime has killed two Turkish soldiers and dozens of civilians in shelling and airstrikes in Idlib province as Turkey continued drone strikes against regime positions.
3 min read
04 March, 2020
Turkey continued to send reinforcements to Idlib province [Getty]
Two Turkish soldiers were killed by Syrian regime forces in the northwestern region of Idlib, Turkey's defence ministry said on Wednesday.

Six others were wounded in the shelling, it said, adding that Turkish forces "immediately" retaliated against regime targets, striking a total of 82 positions.

The ministry also said late Tuesday on Twitter that one Turkish soldier was killed by regime fire and nine others had been injured.

Read more: As the stakes rise ever higher in Syria, refugees pay the price

More than 50 Turkish soldiers have been killed in the rebel-held region in recent weeks, including 34 who died in an air strike on Thursday.

Turkey officially declared an operation against the Russian-backed regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over the weekend, named 'Spring Shield'.

It has since downed three Syrian warplanes, and killed 183 regime soldiers and allied fighters - mostly through drone strikes.

Several regime soldiers were killed and injured on Tuesday evening when Turkish drones bombed a regime military convoy in the town of Saraqeb, opposition military sources told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service.

The strike destroyed regime military vehicles and was in response to regime bombing of Turkish positions in the area.

Turkey on Tuesday sent more reinforcements to Idlib province, according to the sources.

The strategic town of Saraqeb which lies at the junction of the M4 and M5 highways was captured again by the regime on Tuesday after being recaptured by rebels on 27 February.

Saraqeb was originally captured by the regime from rebels on 10 February.

Regime forces, supported by Russian airstrikes, have taken swathes of territory from the opposition since launching a bloody offensive in December, killing hundreds of civilians and forcing nearly a million to flee their homes.

Turkey, which backs certain rebel groups in Idlib, has sought to push back Syrian forces behind lines agreed under a 2018 deal with Russia, which established 12 Turkish observation posts in the province.

Syrian regime planes and artillery bombed the towns of Binnish and Sarmein despite the Turkish strikes. On Tuesday, at least 11 civilians, including six children, were killed and 25 wounded in regime airstrikes on Idlib city. Russian planes also bombed the town of Ariha, causing damage to a mosque, schools, and civilian homes.

The Syrian Civil Defence, known as the White Helmets, said that 24 people had been killed in the past 48 hours.

Despite being on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict, Ankara and Moscow have kept lines of negotiation open, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday in search of a new ceasefire.

Erdogan said on Wednesday he hoped there would be a ceasefire in Syria's Idlib region after the talks.

"(I hope) there will be a ceasefire swiftly established," Erdogan was quoted as saying by the broadcaster NTV.

Turkey, which already hosts some four million refugees, wants to prevent more refugees arriving from Idlib.

It has pressured Europe for greater assistance by announcing that migrants and refugees would no longer be prevented from trying to enter the EU via the Greek border.

The nine-year Syrian conflict has killed over 500,000 people and displaced millions more since it began in 2011 with the Assad regime's brutal suppression of peaceful protests.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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