An unexpected strike against opposition forces in Idlib province last week prompted a retaliatory attack against 200 government targets. The initial attack, conducted by the Syrian government, killed at least 33 Turkish soldiers.
Turkey claims its retaliatory attack “neutralized” 309 soldiers.
Syrian government forces, with help from Russia, have been trying to retake the area from jihadist groups and Turkish-backed rebel factions. This week’s attack followed the opposition’s successful capture of Saraqeb, a strategically important town in Idlib province.
Rebel forces took Saraqeb in 2012, but the city was recaptured by the Syrian Army earlier this year.
This week’s events represent a major escalation of the conflict in Syria, which experts fear could explode into a full-blown international war.
“There is a risk of sliding into a major open international military confrontation,” warns EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. “It’s also causing unbearable humanitarian suffering and putting civilians in danger.”
Although they support different sides in the war, Turkey and Russia both expressed similar concerns and called for ‘additional measures’ to improve the situation in Idlib.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has promised “strong political support” and “practical support” for Turkey and has urged Syria and Russia to participate in UN-led peace talks.
The United States also expressed support for NATO-ally Turkey and called for an end to the conflict.
In the Meantime
Turkey, which is hosting nearly four million Syrian refugees, announced this week it would open its western borders to allow the refugees to travel towards Europe.
The Syrian refugees are the world’s problem now, said Turkish official Fahrettin Altun, and Turkey has “no choice” but to allow them to seek residence in other countries. Altun has called on the global community to impose a no-fly zone in order to prevent “genocide” in Syria.