At least 33 Turkish soldiers have been killed in an air strike by Syrian “regime forces” in north-western Syria, a senior Turkish official has said. More were hurt in Idlib province, said the Governor of Turkey’s Hatay province. Other reports put the death toll higher.
Turkey later retaliated against Syrian government targets.
Syrian forces supported by Russia are trying to retake Idlib from rebels who are backed by Turkish soldiers. The Syrian authorities have so far made no public comments on the latest escalation in Idlib, the last Syrian province to remain in opposition hands.
NATO to hold extraordinary meeting on attacks in Idlib
Following Turkey’s request, NATO will hold an extraordinary meeting Friday over attacks to Turkish soldiers in Idlib.
“Today, the #NATO council meets at Turkey’s request to consult under Article 4 of NATO’s founding Washington Treaty on the situation in Syria”, - NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Twitter.
The statement of Russian Defense Ministry
The Russian Defense Ministry also comments on the situation in Idlib.
“Turkish military who were in the terrorist units’ battle formations came under Syrian troops’ fire near the inhabited community of Behun on February 27.
Militants from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terror group made an attempt to launch a large-scale offensive in Syria’s Idlib. On February 27, 2020, the units of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terror group operating in the Idlib de-escalation zone made an attempt to conduct a large-scale offensive operation on the positions of Syrian government troops.
The Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria had requested information on the exact locations of all units of the Turkish armed forces deployed close to the areas of terrorists’ military operations. According to the information provided by Ankara, there were no Turkish troops in the Behun area. The Russian Reconciliation Center has stayed in touch with Turkey’s coordination center in Idlib in order to rule out any security threats to Turkish observation posts and units deployed in the Idlib de-escalation zone caused by the Syrian army’s reprisal fire”.
Immediately after receiving information about the injured Turkish troops, Russia took comprehensive measures to ensure full cessation of hostilities by Syrian forces. The evacuation of the Turkish servicemen who had been killed or wounded to Turkey was ensured as well”, - reads the statement.
UN secretary-general calls for immediate ceasefire in Syria"s Idlib
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an immediate ceasefire in Idlib.
“The Secretary-General is following with grave concern the escalation in northwest Syria and reports that dozens of Turkish soldiers have been killed by an airstrike. The Secretary-General reiterates his call for an immediate ceasefire and expresses particular concern about the risk to civilians from escalating military actions. Without urgent action, the risk of even greater escalation grows by the hour”, - reads the statement.