Russian army says 33 Turkish troops shelled by Syria were among 'terrorists'

Turkish reprisals kill 16 Syrian soldiers 

NATO to hold urgent meeting of Idlib

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In the ongoing Syrian war in the Aleppo region of Syria, at least 33 Turkish soldiers are among dead terrorists after strike during battle in Idlib which had earlier been reclaimed by Turkey-backed rebels.

At least 33 Turkish soldiers were killed and up to 50 wounded in the airstrike which came during a battle for a key northern town which had earlier been recaptured by Syrian-rebel militias backed by Turkish military.

Russia was accused of carrying out the strike, but Moscow said on Friday morning that the Syrian army was behind the attack.

According to the Russian news agency, Tass in its report said the Turkish military who came under fire from Syrian troops on February 27 were among the advancing militants, the Russian Defense Ministry told reporters. added that  Russian aircraft did not carry out airstrikes near Behun in Syria’s Idlib.

"Turkish military who were in the terrorist units’ battle formations came under Syrian troops’ fire near the inhabited community of Behun on February 27," the ministry said.

According to the ministry, militants from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terror group (one of the names of Jabhat al-Nusra, outlawed in Russia) made an attempt to launch a large-scale offensive in Syria’s Idlib.

"On February 27, 2020, the units of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terror group operating in the Idlib de-escalation zone made an attempt to conduct a large-scale offensive operation on the positions of Syrian government troops," the ministry informed.

It stressed that the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria had requested information on the exact locations of all units of the Turkish armed forces deployed close to the areas of terrorists’ military operations. According to the information provided by Ankara, there were no Turkish troops in the Behun area, the Defense Ministry stressed.

The Russian Reconciliation Center has stayed in touch with Turkey’s coordination center in Idlib in order to rule out any security threats to Turkish observation posts and units deployed in the Idlib de-escalation zone caused by the Syrian army’s reprisal fire.

Ankara also confirmed that Turkish reprisals kill 16 Syrian soldiers in Idlib after an air strike Ankara blames on Damascus killed 33 Turkish soldiers, monitor says

The deadly bombardment has added to weeks of growing tensions between rebel supporter and NATO member Ankara and Damascus ally Moscow.

Turkey retaliated to Thursday's strike by hitting Damascus regime targets "from the air and ground," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's communications director Fahrettin Altun said.

The United States condemned the Syrian action, and NATO said it would hold urgent talks on the crisis on Friday.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg urged de-escalation by all parties of "this dangerous situation" and condemned the "indiscriminate air strikes", in a phone call with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

A US State Department spokesperson said Washington stood by its NATO ally and continues to call "for an immediate end to this despicable offensive by the Assad regime, Russia and Iranian-backed forces".

Air strikes by Russia

As for the Russian Aerospace Forces, they did not carry out airstrikes in the area close to Behun where Turkish servicemen had been killed, the Russian top brass stated. "Aircraft of Russia’s Aerospace Forces were not used near the inhabited community of Behun," the statement reads.

According to the Defense Ministry, "immediately after receiving information about the injured Turkish troops, Russia took comprehensive measures to ensure full cessation of hostilities by Syrian forces." The evacuation of the Turkish servicemen who had been killed or wounded to Turkey was ensured as well.

Governor of Turkey’s Hatay province bordering Syria Rahmi Dogan earlier reported that Turkish troops had come under fire in Syria’s idlib Governorate, with at least 33 soldiers killed. According to Omer Celik, spokesman for the Justice and Development Party led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after that incident Ankara will view Syrian troops as enemy targets.

The situation in Idlib deteriorated dramatically in early February after the Russian and Turkish taskforces had made another attempt to enforce a ceasefire. Terrorists only intensified their attacks instead.

Last week, Erdogan said that Ankara was ready to use all its combat might in case of a military operation in Idlib. He also noted that another military campaign in Idlib was just a matter of time.

Thursday's attack brings to 53 the number of Turkish security personnel killed in Idlib so far this month and the reprisal attacks by Turkey  must have claimed over hundred Syrian forces.

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