Turkish drone strikes in northern Idleb province killed 19 regime soldiers on Sunday, a war monitor reported, as tensions soared between Damascus and Ankara.
The 19 died when a military convoy was hit in the Jabal al-Zawiya area and a base near Maarat al-Nu’man city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Turkish-backed forces captured seven towns in Jabal al-Zawiya on Sunday, taking advantage of Turkish drones and smart missiles that paved the way for their advance.
The report came hours after Turkey shot down two Syrian warplanes, in an escalating offensive against the Damascus regime in the country’s northwestern province of Idleb.
Following weeks of violence in and around Idleb, Turkey confirmed the launch of a full-scale military operation against Russian-backed Syrian forces after 34 Turkish soldiers died last week in an airstrike blamed on Damascus.
Tensions have intensified between rebel backer Turkey and the regime’s main ally Moscow, but Ankara has insisted it does not want to clash directly with Russian forces.
Turkey has 12 observation posts established in rebel-held Idleb following a 2018 deal between Ankara and Moscow signed in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
But the regime recently has pressed ahead with an assault, killing hundreds of civilians and forcing a million to flee from their homes in the region.
Rebel-supporter Turkey and Damascus ally Russia previously worked closely to prevent a regime offensive in Idleb despite being on opposing sides of the nine-year war.
On Saturday, Erdogan called on Russia to “get out of our way” in Idleb and leave Turkey “face to face with the regime” in Idleb.
The latest developments have strained relations between Ankara and Moscow but the Kremlin hopes Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan will hold talks in Moscow on Mar. 5 or Mar. 6, 2020, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday, Interfax news agency reported.
This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.