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Fighting Escalates in Syria as Shelling Kills Five Turkish Soldiers

Fighting Escalates in Syria as Shelling Kills Five Turkish Soldiers

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey said it retaliated Monday after “intense” shelling by Syrian forces killed five of its soldiers and wounded five others in Syria’s northern Idlib province, a marked escalation a week after a similarly deadly clash between the two sides.

The exchange of fire came as a Russian delegation held a second round of talks in the Turkish capital of Ankara to discuss the fighting in Idlib province, which has uprooted more than a half-million people in the past two months. No statement was issued at the end of the talks.

The fighting led to the collapse of a fragile cease-fire brokered by Turkey and Russia in 2018. Turkey supports the Syrian rebels, while Russia heavily backs the Syrian government’s campaign to retake the area, which is the last rebel stronghold in Syria.

A U.N. official said the number of people displaced by the violence since Dec. 1 reached nearly 700,000.

“This could well prove to be the largest number of people displaced in a single period since the Syrian crisis began almost nine years ago,” said U.N. regional spokesman David Swanson, reiterating the call for an immediate truce.

At least 49 civilians were killed between Feb. 1-5, with at least 186 civilians killed in January, he said.

Most of the displaced are living in open-air shelters and temporary homes in rain, snow and freezing temperatures near the Turkish border. Half of the displaced are believed to be children.

The fighting has led Turkey to send hundreds of military vehicles and troops into Idlib province in the past week, bringing both countries’ forces into direct confrontation, a rarity in the Syrian conflict.

Eight Turkish military and civilian personnel and 13 Syrian soldiers were killed in a clash in the province last week. Turkey has warned Syria to retreat to cease-fire lines that were agreed in 2018.

The Turkish Defense Ministry said that its five troops who were killed and those who were wounded were reinforcements that had been sent to Idlib.

A later statement said the retaliation was in line with Turkey’s rules of engagement and its right to self-defense.

At least 115 Syrian positions were targeted in the retaliatory strikes, the ministry said, adding that more than 100 Syrian forces were “neutralized.” In addition, three tanks and two artillery positions were destroyed, while a helicopter was hit, the ministry said. The claim could not be independently verified.


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U.S. kills Iran’s ‘celebrity soldier’; Trump ordered Ukraine aid held; Navy’s unmanned ships; Libya’s airport under fire; And a bit more.

U.S. kills Iran’s ‘celebrity soldier’; Trump ordered Ukraine aid held; Navy’s unmanned ships; Libya’s airport under fire; And a bit more. The U.S. military killed Iran’s “celebrity soldier,” Qassem Soleimani, along with Iraqi militia commander of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation … read more