BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:15 P.M.) – The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey announced on Monday that Ankara will consider the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) forces as “targets” around Turkish observation posts in Idlib, northwestern Syria.
A spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party in Turkey, Omar Gelik, said in statements with CNN that “Ankara will consider the Syrian government forces as targets around the Turkish observation sites in Idlib, northwestern Syria, after Ankara announced that four of its soldiers were killed by Syrian bombing.”
“The Syrian regime will henceforth target us in the region after this attack. We expect that Russia will not defend or protect the regime because after the blatant attack on our armed forces, the regime forces around our positions became targets,” he said.
He explained that the “Syrian government” behaves as a terrorist organization, “and that talks will be held with Russian officials who support the Syrian government on the situation in Idlib.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier today that his country will continue its military operations in Syria, indicating that Turkey will continue to respond to the attack on its forces in Idlib.
Erdogan added in a speech: “We are determined to continue operations in Syria,” adding: “Operations are continuing in Idlib, Syria, and 40 sites have been targeted.”
Regarding the outcome of the losses in the Syrian Army, Erdogan said: “Initial information indicates the neutralization of between 30 and 35 military personnel from the Syrian army in the Turkish operation,” referring to the participation of F-16 fighters in Turkish operations in Syria.
This comes hours after the Turkish Ministry of Defense announced the death of 4 soldiers and the injury of 9 others after a Syrian military attack.
According to the ministry, the Turkish forces responded to the bombing of the Syrian forces, and destroyed targets in Idlib, adding that the Syrian forces carried out the bombing despite being notified of the locations of the Turkish forces in advance.
“Turkish military units made movements within the Idlib de-escalation zone during the night from 2 to 3 February without informing the Russian military. They came under fire from Syrian government forces who were carrying out attacks on terrorists in the area west of the Seracab settlement”, the centre said in a statement.
It added that Russian and Turkish military were maintaining constant contact in order to evacuate the injured troops to Turkey.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has commented on the attack on Turkish troops, saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, did not hold a phone conversation, though “the Russian and Turkish military are in constant contact”.
The statement comes after reports about Turkish military hardware being dispatched to Hatay Province in order to “strengthen military units stationed in border areas”.
In late January, Erdogan accused Syrian government forces of violating the Russia-Turkey deal on the demilitarised zone in Idlib. He also threatened to “take all necessary steps, up to using military force”, unless the situation in Idlib normalises.
On 26 January, the Syrian Army started an offensive in the west of Aleppo over daily shelling of the city’s residential areas by militants. Three days later, the Syrian armed forces announced that they had liberated the strategically important city of Ma’arrat al-Nu’man, which had been under the control of militants since 2012. Located at a junction of the Hama-Aleppo highway, the city used to be a terrorist stronghold and a transit point along supply routes in the south of Idlib Province.