ANKARA – Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar claimed that his country had killed 76 Syrian servicemen in retaliation for the shelling of its troops in Syria’s Idlib province on Monday, contrary to a statement by Russian military which declared that Ankara’s aircraft did not enter the Syrian airspace after the incident.
“Strikes were carried out at 54 targets” of the Syrian government, Turkey’s NTV channel quoted him as saying. According to information obtained from various sources, “76 servicemen” of Damascus have been eliminated to date, he added.
Meanwhile, a Syrian army source told SANA on Monday that no troops were killed or wounded and no damages reported in the alleged Turkish assaults in Idlib province, contrary to reports in the Turkish media, which claimed Ankara ordered air raids at Syrian positions in retaliation for the shelling.
The Russian military had also announced that Turkish aircraft didn’t violate the Syrian border and didn’t strike Syrian troops’ positions. Turkish National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar also claimed that on Sunday, Turkey informed Russia twice about the movements of its troops in Idlib.
But the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria had rejected the claim on Monday, stating that Turkish military personnel had come under an attack of Syrian troops in Idlib, because Turkey had failed to notify Russia about the movements of its troops in advance. The Syrian troops were firing on terrorists retreating to Saraqib.
Turkey has in recent days sent military vehicles, trucks and other reinforcements to the region. The vital city of Saraqib is a high priority for Syria, as two major highways go through Saraqib, including the primary route to Aleppo from Idlib. Once Syrian forces capture Saraqib, they will find full control over the Aleppo-Damascus Highway for the first time since 2011.
According to a source, the Turkish military is attempting to block the Syrian Army’s current push towards the crossroads city, which is located along both the Lattakia-Aleppo Highway (M-4) and Aleppo-Damascus Highway (M-5). On Friday, Erdogan thundered from a podium in Ankara that his country would launch a military operation in Idlib if the ongoing counterterrorism operation continued.
The fresh Syrian military operation followed after those positioned in the de-escalation zone failed to honor the ceasefire and continued to target civilian neighborhoods. The Syrian army forces resumed their military operation against terrorists in Idlib, over multiple ceasefire violations.