US's Pompeo slams 'despicable' attack on Turkish forces
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned Friday "in the strongest possible terms" the deadly Syrian regime attack on Turkish forces that has so far claimed 33 lives.
"We stand by our NATO Ally Turkey in the aftermath of the despicable and brazen February 27 attack on Turkish forces in Idlib, which resulted in the death of dozens of Turkish soldiers," Pompeo said in a statement. "The United States condemns this attack in the strongest possible terms. The Assad Regime, Russia, Iran and Hizballah must cease their ongoing attacks in Idlib."
Another Turkish soldier was martyred and two were wounded Friday in Idlib, Turkey's Defense Ministry said.
In retaliation, Turkey destroyed eight regime tanks, four armored vehicles, five howitzers and two rocket launchers, the ministry said on Twitter.
Pompeo further blamed the regime, and its principal backers -- Russia, Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah -- for "preventing the establishment of a ceasefire in northern Syria."
"The United States is engaging with our Turkish Allies and reviewing options to assist Turkey against this aggression as we seek to prevent further Assad regime and Russian brutality and alleviate the humanitarian suffering in Idlib," he said.
Roughly 900,000 civilians have been displaced since the Syrian regime began its offensive in December on Idlib province with the assistance of Russian air power and Iranian-backed forces.
Thursday's attack was one of a series since January on Turkish troops, with Turkish officials keeping a pledge that such assaults would not go unanswered.
More than 1.7 million Syrians have moved near the Turkish border due to intense attacks.
Since the eruption of the Syria conflict in 2011, Turkey has taken in some 3.7 million Syrians who fled their country, making it the world's top refugee-hosting country.