At least 22 Turkish soldiers were killed on Thursday (February 27th) in airstrikes by the Syrian regime in the Idleb region in northwestern Syria, authorities said. A brutal escalation which risks triggering a firm response from Ankara.
Several soldiers were also seriously injured and repatriated for hospitalization, said the governor of the province of Hatay, bordering Syria, to the Turkish state press agency Anadolu. Governor Rahmi Dogan attributed the strikes to Bashar al-Assad's regime.
>> See: Syria: Idleb, the last battle of Assad?
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan convened an extraordinary security council in Ankara in the evening, notably in the presence of the Minister of Defense, the head of the army and the head of the secret services, the presidency said. According to Turkish media, the purpose of the meeting was the situation in Idleb.
Shortly before the governor of Hatay's announcement, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), an NGO, had reported more than 30 Turkish soldiers killed in air and artillery bombings by the regime in Idleb.
Talks between Russian and Turkish officials
The heavy losses sustained by Turkish forces on Thursday come after weeks of escalation in Idleb between Ankara and the Syrian regime, supported by Moscow.
Russian and Turkish officials held talks in Ankara on Wednesday and Thursday to try to find a solution to the Idleb crisis.
In recent days, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly called on the Syrian regime to withdraw its forces by the end of February from certain areas in the Idleb region, otherwise threatening to use force. On Wednesday, President Erdogan ruled out taking "the slightest step back" in Idleb.
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