33 Turkish Soldiers Killed in Syrian Air Raid in Idlib
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - At least 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike by Syrian government forces in northwestern Idlib province as Turkey vowed "to respond in kind" with attacks on "all" their positions.
The rapid escalation of the conflict on Friday also threatened another refugee crisis as media reports cited Turkish officials as saying they "opened the gates" for Syrian refugees to transit unimpeded to Europe.
Russia, meanwhile, said Ankara failed to inform it that Turkish troops were fighting alongside rebels in Idlib - comments denied by Turkey.
"Turkish soldiers who were in the battle formations of terrorist groups came under the fire of Syrian troops," the defence ministry said in a statement, Al Jazeera reported.
Russian state television reported Turkish military specialists were using shoulder-fired missiles to try to shoot down Russian and Syrian military aircraft over Idlib.
The deaths were the largest number of fatalities suffered by Turkey in a single day since it first intervened in Syria in 2016. In response, Turkey warned it will attack "all known targets of the Syrian regime".
Meantime, Turkish reprisals killed 16 Syrian soldiers on the battlefield in Idlib on Friday, a UK-based war monitor reported.
Retaliatory drone and artillery strikes hit Syria army positions in southern and eastern parts of the province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Al Jazeera could not immediately confirm the reported deaths and there was no response from Damascas.
Fighting took place during a Russia-backed Syrian government offensive to seize the war-torn country's last opposition-held stronghold, which is home to more than three million people.
The ferocious bombing campaign and ground assault have displaced nearly one million people since December, more than half of whom are children. The Syrian offensive has also engulfed many of the 12 military observation posts Turkey has in Idlib.
Rhami Dogan, the governor of Turkey's Hatay province bordering Syria's Idlib region, said 32 wounded troops were being treated in hospitals. Turkey has had 54 soldiers killed in Idlib since the beginning of February.