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Dozens of regime targets destroyed after one Turkish soldier martyred by tank fire in Syria's Idlib

Turkish forces have destroyed more than 20 regime targets after one Turkish soldier, who was a tank mechanic, was martyred on Saturday in a bomb attack carried out by the pro-regime fighters in the last rebel holdout of Idlib, the defence ministry said in a written statement.

Agencies and A News WORLD
Published February 22,2020

A Turkish soldier was martyred in Syria's Idlib region in a bomb attack by Russian-backed regime forces, the defence ministry said on Saturday.

"One of our heroic comrades was injured as a result of tank fire by the regime on our elements who are in the Idlib region to ensure a ceasefire but fell martyr when he was being taken to a hospital," the ministry said on Twitter.

"The blood of our martyrs has never gone to waste and it never will. We wish Allah's mercy and grace for our hero soldier. We convey our deepest condolences to the family of the martyr and to the Turkish Armed Forces and our noble nation," the ministry added.

The latest casualty brings the number of Turkish personnel martyred in clashes in Idlib this month to 17.

Turkish forces retaliated and destroyed 21 "regime targets", the ministry said, adding the soldier was a tank mechanic who died when transferred to hospital.

Turkey has swiftly retaliated to any attack, neutralizing hundreds of regime troops and targets, warning that it would not tolerate any Turkish soldiers coming to harm.

Turkey has sent thousands of troops and equipment to northwest Syria, just south of its border, to head off a push in recent weeks by Russia-backed regime forces to retake the rebel-held territory after nine years of war.

Turkey, which already hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees, says it cannot handle another wave and has closed it borders even while the Syrian offensive and Russian air raids have displaced nearly a million people - mostly women and children - since early December.

The rising number of military casualties, including two on Thursday, could complicate Ankara's talks with Moscow over a possible deal to halt the fighting.

After delegations from the two sides failed to reach an agreement in the last two weeks, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has promised to push back pro-Assad forces if they press on.

Turkey has "determined our road map" for Syria after calls with the leaders of Russia, Germany and France on Friday, Erdoğan told supporters in Izmir on Saturday. "We will announce to all parties that we are at the table."

The United Nations has warned fighting in Idlib could "end in a bloodbath" and called for a ceasefire. The latest Syrian offensive has prompted the biggest civilian exodus in a civil war that has killed an estimated 400,000 Syrians, displaced millions more and left much of the country in ruins.

Syria has been mired in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN figures.

Idlib, near Turkey's southern border, falls within a de-escalation zone laid out in a deal between Turkey and Russia in late 2018.

The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the territory where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.

The de-escalation zone is currently home to about 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces throughout the war-torn country.

Some 1 million Idlib refugees have moved towards the Turkish border in recent months, fleeing attacks by the Assad regime and its allies which caused a desperate humanitarian situation.

Turkey has called for an immediate halt to the attacks on Idlib, and for the cease-fire to be followed, warning that if the attacks do not stop, Turkey will act.