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Airstrike in Syria’s Idlib kills 22 Turkish troops

Image copyright AFP Image caption Turkish troops are backing rebel forces in northern Syria At least 22 Turkish soldiers have been killed in an airstrike by Syrian “regime forces”, a Turkish provincial governor has said.Several more were badly hurt in the attack in Idlib in the north-west, Hatay governor Rahmi Dogan said. Other reports put…

Turkish troops in northern SyriaImage copyright
AFP

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Turkish troops are backing rebel forces in northern Syria

At least 22 Turkish soldiers have been killed in an airstrike by Syrian “regime forces”, a Turkish provincial governor has said.

Several more were badly hurt in the attack in Idlib in the north-west, Hatay governor Rahmi Dogan said. Other reports put the death toll higher.

Turkey’s president held a top-level security meeting after the strike.

Syrian forces are trying to retake Idlib from rebels who are backed by Turkish soldiers.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants Syrian forces to pull back from positions where Turkey has set up military observation posts.

He has threatened to attack Syrian government forces if they do not halt their advance.

But Syria’s government and its ally Russia have rejected his demand to pull back to ceasefire lines agreed in 2018.

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Media captionWatch: Turkey’s defence ministry reiterates his country’s threat to Syria

Russia has also accused Turkey of violating the 2018 ceasefire by backing rebels with artillery fire.

The UK-based monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said at least 34 Turkish troops had been killed in Thursday evening’s air strike.

The wounded had been brought back to Turkey for treatment, Mr Dogan said.

Meanwhile, Nato-member Turkey said Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had spoken to Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Erdogan said three Turkish soldiers had been killed in an airstrike in Idlib.

Turkey’s defence ministry said it had responded to that incident by hitting Syrian “regime targets”.

The latest clashes came after the Turkey-backed rebels said they had retaken the strategic town of Saraqeb from Syrian government forces on Thursday.

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Media captionSyrian refugee families on their search for safety

The fighting has driven nearly a million Syrians from their homes since December. The UN said a full-scale battle for Idlib could result in a “bloodbath”.

Reuters news agency quoted a senior Turkish official on Thursday as saying that Turkey had decided to stand down its border guards and no longer prevent Syrian refugees from trying to reach Europe. However, this has not been officially confirmed.

Russia has rejected calls in the UN Security Council for a humanitarian ceasefire in northern Syria.

Responding to a statement from Belgium and Germany that the killing of civilians must stop, the Russian ambassador said the only solution was to chase what he called the terrorists from the country.

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