Turkey pays tribute to dead soldiers - SIPA
Turkey confirmed this Sunday the launch of a major military offensive against the regime in Syria, two planes were shot down, while maintaining pressure on Europe by letting thousands of migrants pass to Greece.
After weeks of climbing in the Idleb region in north-western Syria, Ankara has announced that it is carrying out the "Spring Shield" operation against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, who has suffered heavy losses in Turkish strikes in recent days.
Turkey seeking western support
As a sign that the fighting has intensified, two regime planes and a Turkish drone were shot down in the sky over Idleb on Sunday, Ankara and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), an NGO, reported.
In search of Western support, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan opened the doors of Europe to migrants, who by the thousands, including women and children, continued to flock this Sunday by cutting across fields towards the border with Greece.
No tension with Moscow
As the situation in Syria escalates, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar stressed that Ankara was not seeking confrontation with Moscow, a powerful ally of the Syrian regime which it supports militarily.
The aim of the Turkish offensive, he said, is "to put an end to the regime's massacres and to prevent a wave of migration". Turkey has multiplied since Saturday the drone strikes against the positions of the Syrian regime but it is the first time that Ankara officially announces that these are part of a more general operation.
The operation was launched on Thursday after the death of 33 Turkish soldiers in air strikes attributed to the regime, the heaviest losses suffered by Ankara since the beginning of its intervention in Syria in 2016. Friday and Saturday, nearly 90 Syrian soldiers and Allied group fighters in Damascus were killed by Ankara strikes in retaliation, according to the OSDH.
In this volatile climate, the Syrian army warned on Sunday that it would shoot down any "enemy" aircraft over the Idleb region. With support from the Russian air force, the Syrian regime has been carrying out a deadly offensive since December to retake this region, the last rebel and jihadist stronghold in Syria.
This offensive has created friction between Ankara and Moscow. Even though Turkey supports certain rebel groups and Russia supports the regime, the two countries have been strengthening their cooperation on the Syrian issue in recent years.
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