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Syrian regime kills two Turkish soldiers as Idlib onslaught rages on Open in fullscreen

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Syrian regime kills two Turkish soldiers as Idlib onslaught rages on

At least 19 Turkish troops have been killed in Idlib [Getty]

Date of publication: 27 February, 2020

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President Erdogan has vowed to push back Syrian regime forces in the northwestern province.
Two Turkish soldiers were "martyred" in Syrian regime shelling in the conflict-torn province of Idlib, the Turkish Defence Ministry said late on Wednesday.

The deaths bring the total of Turkish troops killed in clashes with Syrian regime forces this month to 19.

Another two soldiers were injured in the aerial attack, the defence ministry said in a statement.

The ministry did not specify where in Idlib the attack occurred but thousands of Turkish troops are stationed at a dozen military observation posts in the northwestern province.

Established under a 2017 "de-escalation" deal brokered with Russia and Iran, several of the observation posts have since fallen behind Syrian regime lines as Damascus battles with rebel and extremist factions to seize the country's last opposition bastion.

Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and his Russian backer first launched the assault to seize Idlib and parts of neighbouring Hama and Aleppo provinces in April last year.
[Click to enlarge]

But with the aid of Russian aerial power, Damascus intensified the onslaught in December. Since then, Syrian regime forces have captured a number of key towns and a strategic highway.

Hundreds of civilians have been killed and nearly a million displaced, pushed north towards the Turkish border to camp out in freezing conditions.

The Turkish military responded to the deadly Syrian regime strike on Wednesday, striking and destroying 114 targets according to the ministry.

Turkish forces seized three Syrian tanks and destroyed an air-defence missile system, as well as an anti-aircraft gun, the ministry added citing unnamed sources.

'One way or another'

Earlier on Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to force back forces loyal to Assad by the end of this month.

"We are planning to liberate our observation posts from the surrounding [Syrian regime forces] by the end of this month, one way or another," Erdogan told lawmakers from his party.

Ankara is also keen to halt the regime advance as record numbers of displaced people are pushed towards the Turkish border.

Turkey hosts more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees whose continued presence amid domestic economic upheaval has become a key polling issue for Erdogan.

On Tuesday, the Turkish leader confirmed that two Turkish soldiers were killed in Libya, where Ankara has sent military trainers - as well as Syrian fighters - to battle militias under the command of rogue general Khalifa Haftar.

Erdogan's remarks followed claims by Khaled al-Mahjoub, the head of mobilisation for Haftar's forces, that at least 16 Turkish soldiers had been killed in fighting in and around Tripoli

Ankara backs the United Nations-recognised government in Tripoli.

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