Ankara: At least 33 Turkish soldiers have been killed in an airstrike by Syrian “regime forces” in the war-torn country’s Idlib region, a senior Turkish official has said.
While Rahmi Dogan, the governor of Turkey’s Hatay province, put the toll at 33, the UK-based the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said at least 34 Turkish troops had been killed in Thursday evening’s airstrike, the BBC reported.
The wounded have been brought back to Turkey for treatment, Dogan added.
Turkey retaliated against Syrian government targets after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held an urgent top-level security meeting in Ankara late Thursday.
Defence Minister Hulusi Akar and senior Turkish military commanders immediately went to the Syrian border to direct a wave of ground and air attacks against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
“All known” Syrian government targets were under fire by Turkish air and land support units, Ankara’s Communications Director Fahrettin Altun was quoted by state news agency Anadolu as saying.
Turkey had decided to “respond in kind” to the attack, Altun added.
The development comes amid the Russia-backed Syrian forces trying to retake Idlib from rebels who are supported by Turkish soldiers.
President Erdogan wants the Syrian government forces to pull back from positions where Turkey has set up military observation posts and earlier threatened to attack them if they did not halt their advance, the BBC said in the reported.
But Syria’s government and Russia have rejected his demand to pull back to ceasefire lines agreed in 2018.
Russia has also accused Turkey of violating the 2018 ceasefire by backing rebels with artillery fire.