https://www.dw.com-Turkish forces have retaliated against Syrian targets, marking a major escalation in the brutal conflict. Follow DW for the latest updates as warring parties struggle to contain the fallout of the Idlib offensive.
- Syria has conducted airstrikes on Turkish outposts in the rebel stronghold of Idlib, according to Ankara officials.
- 33 soldiers were killed and dozens more wounded in the offensive, the governor of a Turkish province bordering Syria has said.
- NATO condemned the attack, describing it as “indiscriminate.” The UN said it is “gravely concerned.”
- Turkish forces have launched a counterstrike against Syrian regime targets in Idlib, according to the office of President Erdogan.
All updates in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC/GMT)
04:02 Over the past two years, thousands of hard-line rebels have been transferred from battlefronts in other parts of Syria to Idlib as part of government-backed ceasefire deals. Those transfers have consequently made Idlib the final bastion of opposition to President Bashar Assad, as well as a hotbed of extremist groups.
Turkey — which opposes the Syrian regime — has refused to leave 12 observation outposts in Idlib, saying they are recognized by an agreement with Moscow. However, the Syrian regime views the outposts with hostility, and in December surrounded one of them in a move that nearly opened a new front in the conflict.
02:09 Turkey, which is already home to an estimated 3.6 million Syrian refugees, now expects hundreds of thousands more to flee Idlib. Omer Celik, spokesman for Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said: “Turkey can no longer hold the refugee influx from Idlib at our border.”
01:20 The death toll has risen to 33 as the United Nations Secretary-General Guterres said he’s “gravely concerned” by the escalation in Syria. The UN chief added that the risk of the conflict worsening “grows by the hour” without urgent action.
“The Secretary-General reiterates his call for an immediate ceasefire and expresses particular concern about the risk to civilians from escalating military actions,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
00:35 The US State Department has expressed its alarm at the escalating developments in Idlib while coming out in support of Turkey, and citing Iran as partly responsible.
“We stand by our NATO ally Turkey and continue to call for an immediate end to this despicable offensive by the Assad regime, Russia, and Iranian-backed forces,” a State Department representative said in a statement. “We are looking at options on how we can best support Turkey in this crisis.”
00:15 The death toll from the airstrikes continues to rise. “After the airstrike, 29 of our soldiers were martyred,” according to Rahmi Dogan, governor of the Turkish border province of Hatay.
00:08 Details of the phone call between Turkey and NATO have come out and Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has condemned the Syria and Russia led offensive.
His spokesman said of the phone call between the NATO chief and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu: “Mr Stoltenberg condemned the continued indiscriminate airstrikes by the Syrian regime and its backer Russia in Idlib province, and called on them to stop their offensive, to respect international law and to back UN efforts for a peaceful solution.”
The spokesman added: “He urged all parties to de-escalate this dangerous situation and avoid further worsening of the horrendous humanitarian situation in the region.”
00:04 Turkey is seeking NATO support, according to government spokesman Omer Celik.
23:43 Some details are emerging from the security meeting chaired by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of the airstrikes. The meeting concluded that “the Assad regime is responsible for the killing of hundreds of thousands of Syrians. We call on the international community, particularly the parties to the Astana process, to fulfill their responsibilities, to stop the regime’s crimes against humanity,” Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish president’s communications director said in a statement.
23:38 On Thursday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas heavily criticized the Russian and Syrian government’s indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Idlib. Maas said “those responsible must be held accountable.”
23:23 Governor Rahmi Dogan of the Turkish province of Hatay, which borders Idlib, has also revealed that 36 soldiers were wounded in the airstrikes.
23:11 Turkish Foreign Minister Mevult Cavusoglu has discussed the ongoing situation with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, according to Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu, citing government sources.
As a NATO member, Turkey has the right to invoke Article 5 — the collective defense clause — in the event it comes under attack. However, it is unclear whether it could be used in this context. The only time the article has been triggered was in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on American soil. It effectively paved the way for the war in Afghanistan.
Details of the phone call did not specify whether Cavusoglu and Stoltenberg discussed Article 5.
22:45 “All known” Syrian government targets are under fire by Turkish air and land support units, Ankara’s communications director Fahrettin Altun told state-run Anadolu news agency. Turkey has decided to “respond in kind” to the airstrikes by the Syrian regime, Altun added.
22:00 As a result of the airstrikes, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called an emergency security meeting in Ankara, broadcaster NTV reported.
21:30 The figure of nine killed has now increased to 22, Hatay Governor Rahmi Dogan has confirmed. “What a shame I have to say that the death toll has risen to 22,” the governor of the border region said.
21:00 At least nine Turkish soldiers have been killed in Idlib, a governor of a Turkish province bordering Syria has said. Hatay Governor Rahmi Dogan said they were killed after airstrikes carried out by the Syrian government.