Ankara, Feb 11: In retaliation for the attack by Syria that killed five of its soldiers a day ago, Turkey hit nearly 100 enemy targets on Tuesday, threatening further escalation of tension in the already volatile region.
"Turkey retaliated against the attack to destroy all enemy targets and avenging our fallen troops.The war criminal, who ordered today's heinous attack, targeted the entire international community, not just Turkey" said a release by the Turkish Armed Forces. Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Ankara had "responded to the cowards". Last week also Turkey had lost eight military personnel in a somewhat similar attack on Saraqeb, south of Taftanaz. The Turkish retaliation then had left at least 13 Syrian soldiers dead. After that attack, Ankara had warned Syria to pull back its forces behind the lines agreed to in 2018.
However, Syria refused and its military vowed that it will continue its efforts to try and seize two highways linking Aleppo to other government controlled areas. Turkey has established a dozen observation posts in Idlib which have been targeted by the Syrian forces ever since they resumed their offensive in December last year. The latest attack comes as a delegation from Russia arrived in Ankara for further talks on the fighting in Syria.
Russia and Iran support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while Turkey backs some of the forces trying to over throw the Assad regime. These forces have entrenched themselves in Idlib. Omer Celik, a spokesperson for Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, said Erdogan could meet with Russia's President Vladimir Putin over Syria if the need arises. "Negotiations are ongoing with the visiting delegation and, so far, no concrete conclusion has been reached," he said. "The Turkish side has made its position very clear." "The Assad regime is dependent and loyal to Russia and all the attacks by Assad forces are backed by either Iran or Russia," he said. He accused the Syrian and Russian aircrafts attacking Turkish forces in coordination.
He further warned that if these attacks continued the Astana process would be in danger of falling apart. According to the BBC, last week Turkey sent thousands of troops and equipment, including tanks and armed personnel carriers, into Idlib in an effort to slow the Syrian army's advance. This has led to nearly 7,00,000 civilians being displaced and have been forced to flee towards the Turkish border. Turkey currently hosts 3.6 million refugees from Syria and has closed its borders, saying it cannot accept anymore. "Turkey does not want to see a humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib." said a Turkish official. (UNI)