Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 May 2020

Syria air raids hit near Turkish military post, war monitor says

It was not clear if the aircraft belonged to Russia or the Syrian regime, both of which have pounded Idlib since April

Syrian civilians look for survivors under the rubble of a building following a reported airstrike by Syrian regime forces in Maar Shurin on the outskirts of Maaret Al Numan in northwest Syria on August 27, 2019. AFP
Syrian civilians look for survivors under the rubble of a building following a reported airstrike by Syrian regime forces in Maar Shurin on the outskirts of Maaret Al Numan in northwest Syria on August 27, 2019. AFP

Air raids hit near a Turkish military post in northwest Syria on Wednesday, after Ankara vowed to take necessary steps to protect its troops deployed across the border.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said warplanes fired at areas surrounding a Turkish observation post in Sheir Maghar, located in the extremist-run Idlib region.

The war monitor in Britain said it was not clear if the aircraft belonged to Russia or the Syrian regime, both of which have pounded Idlib with heavy air strikes since late April.

The raids near Sheir Maghar came after Syrian government forces surrounded another Turkish observation post in the nearby town of Morek last week, said the Observatory, which relies on sources inside Syria for its information.

Days earlier, a regime air strike cut off a Turkish military convoy shortly after it crossed into Idlib en route to Khan Sheikhun.

The President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday said that the situation in Idlib had put his troops "in danger".

"We do not want this to continue. All necessary steps will be taken here as needed," he said after talks with his Russian counterpart Vladmir Putin in Moscow.

Idlib province and parts of neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia are controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al Sham, a militant alliance led by the former Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

Russian-backed Syrian government forces launched a ground offensive against the region on the Turkish border on August 8 after months of heavy bombardment.

The fighting has upped the stakes with Ankara, which has established 12 military observation posts in Idlib under a buffer zone agreement reached with regime ally Russia.

The Turkish-Russian deal in September last year was supposed to avert any full-blown offensive on Idlib, but it was never fully put into effect.

Increased bombardment by the Syrian military and Russia since late April has killed more than 900 civilians in Idlib.

In the same period, the violence has displaced more than 400,000 people, including many already uprooted from other areas, the United Nations says.

"The situation in the Idlib de-escalation zone is of serious concern to us and our Turkish partners," Mr Putin said on Monday at a press conference with Mr Erdogan.

He said Turkey had "legitimate interests" to protect on its southern borders and supported the creation of a security zone in the area.

Mr Putin said that he and Mr Erdogan had agreed "additional joint steps" to "normalise" the situation in Idlib, but did not provide details.

The Syrian civil war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

Updated: August 28, 2019 02:59 PM

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