Turkish troops attacked despite coordination with Russia, defense minister says
HATAY - Anadolu Agency
The deadly attack on Turkish troops took place although the location of our forces was known by Russia, Turkey's defense minister said on Feb. 28.
"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, killing 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.”
Russia denies involvement in airstrikes on Turkish troops in Idlib
Russian planes did not carry out strikes on the area of Idlib where Turkish units sustained aerial bombardments, according to Russia’s Defense Ministry, after 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in a brutal attack by the Moscow-backed Assad regime.
Moscow has done everything to impose a full cease-fire by the Syrian regime since the country learned of Turkish casualties, the statement said.
The ministry said Turkey had not informed the Russian military about the presence of Turkish soldiers in the area of Syria's Idlib.
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.