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Turkish F-16 Fighter Jets Strike Targets in Idlib After Syrian Army Attacks - Erdogan

The Anadolu news agency reported a day earlier that Turkey was deploying military hardware to the border with Syria as a column of armoured vehicles and tanks reached the Reyhanli district of Hatay Province, bordering Syria’s Idlib.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated that Ankara won’t allow Syrian Army attacks on the Turkish military in Idlib to go unanswered.

According to the president, the Turkish military has been in contact with its Russian counterparts since Turkish soldiers died in the north of Syria.

Meanwhile, the Russian military has stated that Turkish aircraft didn’t breach the Syrian border, adding that it didn't register any strikes on Syrian government forces' positions.

"Turkish military units made movements within the Idlib de-escalation zone during the night from 2 to 3 February without informing the Russian military. They came under fire from Syrian government forces who were carrying out attacks on terrorists in the area west of the Seracab settlement", the centre said in a statement.

It added that Russian and Turkish military were maintaining constant contact in order to evacuate the injured troops to Turkey.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has commented on the attack on Turkish troops, saying that Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, did not hold a phone conversation, though "the Russian and Turkish military are in constant contact". 

The Turkish Defence Ministry said in a statement earlier in the day that four soldiers were killed and nine injured in shelling by Syrian government forces in the Idlib region. Several hours later, the ministry confirmed that the number of victims has climbed to six.

According to the ministry, Turkish forces retaliated for the shelling and destroyed targets in the region.

The statement comes after reports about Turkish military hardware being dispatched to Hatay Province in order to "strengthen military units stationed in border areas".

In late January, Erdogan accused Syrian government forces of violating the Russia-Turkey deal on the demilitarised zone in Idlib. He also threatened to "take all necessary steps, up to using military force", unless the situation in Idlib normalises. 

A Turkish police armoured vehicle patrols the border between Turkey and Syria, in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey - Sputnik International
Turkey Will Respond If Syrian Army Endangers Idlib Observation Posts – Defence Ministry
On 26 January, the Syrian Army started an offensive in the west of Aleppo over daily shelling of the city's residential areas by militants. Three days later, the Syrian armed forces announced that they had liberated the strategically important city of Ma'arrat al-Nu'man, which had been under the control of militants since 2012. Located at a junction of the Hama-Aleppo highway, the city used to be a terrorist stronghold and a transit point along supply routes in the south of Idlib Province.

In September 2018, Moscow and Ankara agreed to set up a demilitarised zone along the contact line between the armed opposition and government forces in Idlib. Not all militants have laid down their arms, with the province remaining a stronghold of various terrorist groups.

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