Fighting rages in northwest Syria; two Turkish troops killed

Two Turkish soldiers were killed and another five wounded in Syrian government air raids on Thursday near the northwest region of Idlib.

More than 50 Syrian forces were killed in retaliation, Turkey’s defence ministry added.

The attacks came a day after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned of an imminent Turkish military offensive in Idlib, where Syrian forces, backed by Russia airpower, mounted an operation to capture the region.

Turkey’s Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said the soldiers – who were in Idlib to “establish peace and manage humanitarian aid operations” – were killed by “an attack carried out by the [Syrian] regime”.

Earlier this month, 13 Turkish soldiers were killed in Syrian attacks, prompting Erdogan to say Turkey will attack Syrian forces “anywhere” in Syria if another soldier was hurt.

In a statement, the defence ministry said five tanks, two armoured personnel carriers, two armoured trucks and one howitzer were also destroyed in retaliation.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said at least 11 pro-government fighters and 14 on the pro-Turkey side were killed along with the two Turkish troops.

Russia – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s main ally – accused Turkey on Thursday of providing artillery support to rebels fighting Syrian government forces, and said fighters briefly broke through government defences in Idlib, Russian news agencies reported.

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