Turkey has hit back and targeted Syrian regime posts after at least five of its soldiers alongside a civilian were killed by regime forces in Idlib. Seven Turkish troops were also wounded in the shelling carried out by the brutal Syrian regime in the battle for the only remaining major opposition-held enclave.
Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey may consider launching a military operation against Syria if fighting in Idlib is not ceased.
The regime’s vicious campaign has resulted in dozens of towns being destroyed and left in ruins, including hospitals and schools which have been knocked down, according to UN aid agencies.
The Turkish defence military have said that the shelling by the Syrian government was carried out “against our elements sent as reinforcements to prevent clashes in Idlib, despite their positions being coordinated beforehand.”
According to Turkey’s Defence Ministry, Turkish forces were sent as reinforcements. Despite that, they were fired upon even though advance notice of their coordinates was provided. The Assad regime’s main backer has maintained that the Turkish soldiers were shot overnight as a result of a lack of information.
These developments are very likely to further increase tensions between the Syrian regime and Turkey. Direct incidents and clashes like these have been very rare. These recent developments could also result in further friction between the two neighbouring countries.
Erdogan said Ankara’s response consisted of fighter jets and artillery fire against regime military targets, killing between 30 and 35 Syrian troops. He said:
“Those who test Turkey’s determination with such vile attacks will understand their mistake.” He further added that Moscow was told that Ankara would not stand for any situation “where we are prevented” from responding to Syrian assaults.
“It is not possible for us to remain silent when our soldiers are being martyred.”
Erdogan said, “We made it clear that we are targeting the Syrian regime’s forces simply because it was them who attacked our Turkish soldiers.” The President further added “we cannot sit on our hands. In response, we will hold to account all those responsible for the attack on the Turkish soldiers.”
Idlib is situated in northwest Syria on the border with Turkey. The United Nations (UN) have estimated that 3 million people live in Idlib today, in contrast to the 1.5 million prior to the conflict. The population rise in Idlib is due to many people fleeing their homes, being displaced from other parts of Syria due to earlier periods of violence. Over half the population of Idlib are women and children.
In 2017, both Russia and Turkey came to a decision that both sides will patrol the area (Idlib) to prevent the clashes between the Syrian government and the opposition. As a result, both countries signed a ‘de-escalation’ deal on Idlib, which came into effect the following year of 2018. However, Turkey, who have twelve military observation posts in the besieged area, accuse Russia of violating the de-escalation agreement they had previously signed. Moscow has denied this accusation. This inevitably means the situation in Idlib is in turn raising tensions between Turkey and Russia.