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Syria: 31 regime fighters killed in Turkish reprisals

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Reprisal bombing by the Turkish army has killed 31 Syrian regime fighters in north-western Syria, an NGO reported on Friday after the death of 33 Turkish soldiers in raids attributed by Ankara in the power of Damascus.

During the night, the first Turkish bombardments carried out “by artillery or with drones” armed targeted positions of the regime, notably in the south and the east of the province of Idlib, killing 27 combatants of the government forces, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

On Friday, four regime fighters were killed by Turkish artillery fire in the northeast of the neighboring province of Aleppo, according to the SOHR. Syrian factions supported by Turkish forces are found in this area.

An initial assessment by the SOHR reported that 20 regime soldiers were killed.

The Damascus authorities did not comment on the escalation with Ankara, nor provide an assessment. A military source quoted on Friday by the Syrian official agency Sana however laconically denounced “the exaggeration of the losses” suffered by the army of Damascus.

Ankara had confirmed that it had responded during the night to raids attributed to the Syrian regime which killed 33 Turkish soldiers on Thursday in the province of Idlib.

“All the known positions of the (Syrian) regime have been taken under fire from our ground and air units,” said the director of communications for the Turkish presidency, Fahrettin Altun, in a statement.

The heavy losses sustained by Ankara on Thursday come after weeks of mounting tensions in Idlib between Turkish and regime forces, which have clashed repeatedly since the beginning of the month.

Thursday’s deadly bombings bring the number of Turkish soldiers killed in Idlib to February at least 53.

– Counter-offensive –

With support from the Moscow air force, Damascus went on the offensive in December to retake the Idleb region, the last great rebel and jihadist stronghold.

As of Friday, four civilians from the same family, including two children, were killed in air raids in the Jabal al-Zawiya region of Idlib, according to the SOHR, which was unable to identify the striker.

Turkey, which supports certain rebel groups and has deployed troops in northwestern Syria, has repeatedly called for a halt to the offensive.

Ankara, which already hosts more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees on its territory, fears that the violence will provoke a new influx towards its border, which it keeps closed.

The fever spurt of the past two days comes after rebels and jihadists managed to retake the strategic city of Saraqeb, in the province of Idlib, with support from Ankara, according to the SOHR.

Quoted Thursday by the official Syrian agency Sana, a military source accused “the Turkish regime of providing support to terrorists (…) in the ongoing fighting on the axis of Saraqeb”.

Fighting continues on Friday in Saraqeb, still held by rebels and jihadists.

On this front, “Turkish artillery strikes in support of the rebels hinder the advance of the regime’s forces”, according to Rami Abdel Rahmane. Damascus forces were only able to recapture the city’s industrial estate, he said.

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