Turkish army tank in Syria

Ankara announces emergency meeting after the death of 33 Turkish soldiers in Syria

Turkey responded by bombing with missiles objectives of the Assad regime in several Syrian cities. Ankara warns that “all elements of the Assad regime are now hostile targets.”

Main government and army members convened late Thursday in Ankara in an emergency meeting headed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, after at least 33 Turkish soldiers died and 32 others were injured in an attack by the Syrian regime in Idlib province.

The information was confirmed by the governor of the Turkish province of Hatay – bordering with Syria – Rahmi Doğan, who updated the initial figure of 9 deaths to finally let it in 33 “martyrs” (dead in service), according to the latest data. Doğan added that the wounded soldiers had been transferred to Turkey to be treated in hospitals in the country.

The attack is the most serious one suffered by Turkey since the beginning of the civil war in Syria in 2011 and raises the tension between Ankara and Damascus to new limits. Official sources cited by the Turkish press said that the urgent meeting of the National Security Council, convened at 9:30 p.m. Thursday (7:30 p.m. CET) in the Turkish capital, was attended by all government ministers and also by the chief of Turkish secret services, Hakan Fidan.

We are attacking, by land and with air support, all the known objectives of the (Syrian) regime, and we will continue to do so. We will continue our operations in Syria until we finish with the hands that have attacked our flag,” said the chief of communications of the Presidency of the Turkish Republic, Fahrettin Altun, at the end of the meeting that lasted for about six hours.

“All the elements of the Assad regime are now hostile targets”

“All the elements of the Syrian regime have now become our objectives. Turkey now considers all the elements of the Assad regime as hostile targets,” announced Ömer Çelik, official spokesman for the ruling party in Turkey, the AKP, led by Erdoğan himself. The CHP, the main opposition party, has also called for an extraordinary and closed session of the Turkish parliament.

In response to the bombing of the Syrian regime, which took place on a convoy of the Turkish army in the Syrian town of Balyun, south of Idlib, the Turkish army harshly attacked some 200 targets of Assad forces in Syria, killing at least 329 of its soldiers; in addition, for the first time Turkey carried out medium-range missile attacks against targets in the Syrian cities of Hama, Nubl and Zahraa, as well as in Latakia, where Khmeimim air base is located, the most important that Russia has in the country.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi kar denounced on Friday that Assad’s attack on Turkish soldiers occurred deliberately as previous occasions and despite the fact that Russia had been informed of the Turkish positions, and denied the version given by both Syrian regime and Moscow that there were Syrian rebels in their vicinity. The minister assured that the bombings continued even against the ambulances sent to the place of the attack, and despite the warnings given after the first attack.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu held a telephone conversation with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who later severely condemned in a statement the attacks carried out by the Syrian regime and Russia and called for an immediate ceasefire in the region.

Turkish presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın also maintained telephone contacts with Robert C. O’Brien, National Security Advisor of the White House; it should be remembered that only a few days ago Turkey had requested the United States to deploy Patriot missile batteries along its southern border in the face of a possible attack by the Assad regime. According to official sources, Turkey also convened a NATO emergency meeting.

More than 1,700 Syrian regime soldiers killed in 17 days

On Thursday, coinciding with the attack in Syria, the Turkish government issued a statement giving details about the results of the operations that the Turkish army has carried out in the last 17 days in the Syrian province of Idlib to curb the Assad offensive, which threatens to cause the greatest humanitarian catastrophe since the beginning of the war.

Specifically, the Armed Forces have neutralised in the last two weeks at least 1,709 soldiers of the Syrian regime, in addition to 55 tanks, 3 helicopters, 18 armed vehicles, 29 howitzers, 21 military vehicles, 6 ammunition depots, 7 mortars, and 4 heavy machine guns DShK of Soviet manufacture.

Turkey and Russia agreed in September 2018 to declare the Syrian province of Idlib – the last stronghold of Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime – an area of ​​war de-escalation where fighting was prohibited, and the Turkish army then established there several observation positions to control the ceasefire, positions that however have been subjected to several recent attacks.

In addition, the incessant violations of the ceasefire by the Syrian regime, which launched a major offensive at the end of 2019 over the last redoubts of the opposition in Idlib, has led to more than one million people from the three million who live in this region to flee to the border with Turkey, which is already the country with the most refugees in the world, welcoming almost 5 million displaced people, mostly Syrians.