Turkey launches military operation against Syrian regime, defense minister says
HATAY - Anadolu Agency
“Operation Spring Shield, which was launched following the heinous attack [on Turkish troops] on Feb. 27 is successfully being carried out,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said as he is commanding the operation from Turkey's southern Hatay province, bordering Syria.
On the details of the operation, Akar said a drone, eight helicopters, 103 tanks, 19 armored personnel carriers, 72 cannons/howitzers, three air-defense systems, 15 anti-tanks/mortars, 56 armored vehicles, nine ammunition depots and 1,212 regime soldiers and elements have been neutralized so far.
He stressed that Turkey's only target during the operation would be regime soldiers and elements in Idlib under the right to self-defense.
The operation was launched after at least 34 Turkish soldiers were killed and dozens of others injured in an airstrike by Assad regime forces in Idlib, a de-escalation zone in northwestern Syria, just across Turkey's southern border.
Turkish soldiers are working to protect local civilians under a September 2018 deal with Russia, which prohibits acts of aggression in Idlib.
But more than 1,300 civilians have since been killed in attacks by Assad and Russian forces in the zone, as the cease-fire continues to be violated. Akar said talks between Ankara and Moscow are ongoing.
“Our expectation from Russia at this point is to fulfill its commitments as the guarantor country, and in this context, to use its influence on the regime to make it halt its attacks and withdraw to the borders set with the Sochi agreement,” he noted.
He added that Turkey does not aim a face-off with Russia and its only aim is to stop the regime massacres and to prevent radicalization and migration.
Akar stressed that Ankara wants a lasting cease-fire and stability in Syria, however, he vowed to intensely retaliate any attack on Turkish troops and observation posts in Idlib.