Turkish defence ministry says army retaliated by destroying ‘targets’ after attack on its forces in northwest Syria.
Five Turkish soldiers have been killed in an attack carried out by Syrian government forces in Syria’s northwest, according to the Turkish defence ministry.
A further five troops were wounded in the assault on Monday in Idlib province, the last rebel-held stronghold in the war-torn country.
The “regime’s intense artillery fire targeted our elements sent as reinforcement to the region with an aim to prevent clashes in Idlib, ensure our border security and stop migration and human tragedy”, the ministry said.
The Turkish military retaliated, it added, “destroying targets”.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitor, said the Turkish soldiers were killed in shelling by the Syrian army at Taftanaz airport, north of Saraqeb town.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Defence Minister Hulusi Akar held an emergency meeting immediately the attack, Turkey’s NTV television reported.
Russian delegation in Ankara
The assault came after a similar attack by the government forces last week killed eight Turkish military personnel, prompting another response by Turkey’s army.
It also happened as a delegation from Russia, the Syrian government’s main ally, is in Ankara for talks on the situation in Idlib. Another round of talks is expected to be held on Monday.
Ankara has sent major reinforcements to Idlib, as it tries to stem rapid advances by Syrian government forces backed by Russia.
The Syrian government offensive in Idlib has driven more than half a million people from their homes towards the closed Turkish border, threatening a new humanitarian crisis.
Turkey, which already hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, says it cannot absorb any more and has demanded Damascus pull back in Idlib by the end of the month or face Turkish action.