Two Turkish soldiers were killed, and two others were wounded in an airstrike in Idlib province in northwestern Syria. According to the Turkish Defense Ministry, the airstrike was carried out by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government forces.
In response, Turkish forces attacked Syrian government military facilities, two anti-aircraft missile systems, three tanks and vehicles, and killed 114 Syrian military.
Earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Ankara plans to push Syrian government troops away from the around Turkish military observation posts in the northwestern part of Idlib province by the end of February. "One way or another, we will drive away the surrounding [Syrian government] forces away from our military positions by the end of this month," Erdogan said.
According to Erdogan, the "biggest problem" today is that Turkey is not able to freely use the airspace over Idlib. "We will not take the slightest step back in Idlib, we will definitely drive the Assad regime beyond the borders that we have identified and ensure the return of people to their homes," he said.
According to the Turkish leader, he recently held telephone talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, after which a roadmap on Syria was drawn up.
The telephone conversation between Putin Erdogan took place on February 21, reported Anadolu news agency. In the conversation, he called for the implementation of the Sochi agreement. According to him, this is the main condition for resolving the situation in Syria's Idlib. He also said that the Syrian army should be "restrained in the region" to prevent a humanitarian crisis.
Before the talks, Erdogan described the situation in the province as a "large-scale war," noting that about a million people are fleeing the fighting in Idlib.
On February 18, Turkish and Russian diplomats held talks in Moscow in an attempt to resolve the next Syrian crisis. These negotiations have not yielded results.
On February 20 at around 3 PM local time in the north-east of Syria’s Idlib province, pro-Turkish forces with support from Turkish artillery began an offensive towards the city of Saraqib, which was captured by Assad’s forces several weeks ago. Less than two hours after the start of the attack, Russian aircraft intervened. When the Syrian army’s defenses near the towns of Qminas and Nayrab were breached, Russian Su-24 bombers attacked, destroying the opposition’s armored vehicles. Syrian government forces were then able to retake the positions.
The Turkish Defense Ministry reported that two Turkish soldiers were killed and another five were wounded in an air raid, but did not specify whose air raid was responsible for the deaths. Fahrettin Altun, director of communications for the Turkish presidential administration, later clarified that Syrian aircraft had been responsible for the fatal attack. Turkey responded by “neutralizing” more than 50 Syrian soldiers, destroying two armored transports, two pickup trucks and one anti-air system, the Turkish news outlet Daily Sabah reported.
On February 21, the Russian Center for Reconciliation of Warring Parties in Syria reported that a large convoy of military equipment and trucks with ammunition were moving from Turkey to Idlib.