Assad regime targets Turkish observation point in Syria's Idlib, 3 soldiers wounded

Published 13.06.2019 11:21
Updated 13.06.2019 17:23
This file photo dated Sept. 21, 2018 shows one of the Turkish observation points in located inside the deescalation zone in Idlib countryside, northwestern Syria. (Photo: Sabah / Uğur Yıldırım)
This file photo dated Sept. 21, 2018 shows one of the Turkish observation points in located inside the deescalation zone in Idlib countryside, northwestern Syria. (Photo: Sabah / Uğur Yıldırım)

Three Turkish soldiers were slightly wounded in a deliberate mortar attack by Assad regime forces on the 10th observation point located inside the de-escalation zone in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, Turkey's Defense Ministry announced Thursday.

The attack came hours after Moscow and Ankara reached a renewed ceasefire agreement in the area as of midnight on June 12.

The observation point located near Mount Zawiyah was targeted by 35 mortar rounds fired from regime-controlled As Shariah some three kilometers away, the statement said.

The wounded soldiers are being treated and evacuated. The observation point facility, its equipments and other supplies were partially damaged.

Necessary contacts were made with Russia regarding the attack, the statement added.

Speaking Thursday in a joint press conference with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian in Ankara, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that it is not possible to say that the ceasefire is fully established in Idlib but efforts continue in cooperation with Russia.

Çavuşoğlu said the regime attack was deemed deliberate and Turkey would give the necessary response if the attacks continued, calling on Moscow and Tehran, who support the Assad regime, to "fulfill their responsibility".

Le Drian said the priority in Idlib must be "to restore calm and serenity to avoid a new humanitarian disaster."

"We call on the Syrian regime and its supporters to stop their indiscriminate attacks against civilians in Idlib," he said.

Russian aircraft targeted "militants" in Syria's Idlib in four airstrikes using coordinates provided by Turkey following the attack on a Turkish observation point located in the de-escalation zone, Russia's Ministry of Defense said in a statement, accusing the al-Qaida linked Nusra Front terrorists of staging the attack.

The Russian military said that the Turkish army had asked for its help to protect Turkish troops by striking "terrorists in Idlib."

The regime forces and its mainly pro-Iranian militia allies shelled opposition-held areas on Wednesday night and early on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said, adding that opposition groups fired artillery at regime forces. Air strikes paused overnight, but resumed on Thursday morning, it added.

On Wednesday, the Russian military said that Moscow and Ankara had agreed to a complete new ceasefire in the northwest, centered on Idlib province, but it did not say how long the truce would last.

The Assad regime launched its offensive against northwest Syria, the last major stronghold of the rebellion against it, in late April. The SOHR said Monday that 25 civilians including seven children had been killed in recent strikes, with more than 360 civilians killed since the end of April.

Russia is Damascus' main ally in the civil war between Bashar Assad and those seeking to oust him, using its warplanes to bombard opposition areas. Turkey backs some opposition groups.

Moscow and Ankara had agreed on a partial truce last September that called for an end to the bombardment of the area and for Ankara to pull heavy weapons and terrorist groups from frontline areas.

The fighting has caused hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom had already been displaced, to flee further north and seek shelter along the Turkish border.

Turkey has pushed Russia to rein in the regime's offensive while Russia has said Turkey must curb the terrorist groups that control Idlib.

On Thursday morning, warplanes targeted the area around Khan Sheikhoun, an opposition-held town in southern Idlib province, the Observatory said.

Syria's war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.

Russia launched a military intervention in support of the Assad regime in 2015, helping his forces reclaim large parts of the country from opposition fighters and terrorist groups.

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