Syria air raids hit near Turkish military post: monitor

Parvez Jabri August 28, 2019

BEIRUT: Air raids hit near a Turkish military post in northwest Syria Wednesday, a war monitor said, 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 militant-run Idlib region.

The Britain-based monitor 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.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said that the post itself was not hit.

The raids near Sheir Maghar came after Syrian government forces surrounded another Turkish observation post in the nearby town of Morek last week, according to 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 the town of Khan Sheikhun.

Turkey’s President 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 Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

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 implemented.

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,” Putin said Monday at a press conference with Erdogan.

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

Putin said he and 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.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Press), 2019

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