Thursday’s deadly attack on Turkish troops took place although the location of our forces was known by Russia, Turkey’s defense minister said on Friday.
“This attack occurred even though the locations of our troops had been coordinated with Russian officials in the field,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters in Hatay, a southern Turkish province bordering Syria.
His remarks came in the wake of an Assad regime attack on Turkish forces, martyring at least 33 Turkish soldiers and injuring dozens in the Idlib de-escalation zone, just across Turkey’s southern border.
Russia is the Assad regime’s ally, and Moscow shares information with the regime to coordinate.
The Turkish soldiers are in Idlib to protect local civilians under a 2018 deal with Russia under which acts of aggression are prohibited in the region.
Akar added: “Despite warnings after the first strike, the Syrian regime unfortunately continued its attacks, even targeting ambulances.”
There were no armed groups around Turkish troops during the deadly Assad regime attack, he stressed.
In retaliation, more than 200 regime targets in Idlib were pounded from the ground and air, Akar said, and continued:
“Turkish forces destroyed five Syrian regime choppers, 23 tanks, 10 armored vehicles, 23 howitzers, five ammunition trucks, a SA-17, a SA-22 air defense system as well as three ammunition depots, two equipment depots, a headquarter and 309 regime troops.”
Since Turkey and Russia reached a deal on Idlib in 2018 under which acts of aggression are supposed to be prohibited there, over 1,300 civilians have been killed in the de-escalation zone, in violation of the deal.
Following intense attacks by the Assad regime and its allies, over a million Syrians have flocked towards the Turkish border.
Since the eruption of the bloody civil war in Syria in 2011, Turkey has taken in some 3.7 million fleeing Syrians, making Turkey the world’s top refugee-hosting country.