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Turkish soldier 'deliberately killed' by Syria regime in Idlib

Turkey has 12 observation posts in Idlib [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 June, 2019

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Syrian government shelling on a Turkish observation post killed one Turkish soldier in Idlib, where Turkey is tasked with maintaining a tenuous ceasefire.
A Turkish soldier was killed and three others injured after the Syrian government fired on a Turkish observation post in the last rebel-held province of Idlib, Ankara said on Friday. 

The "mortar and cannon shells" launched on Thursday were a deliberate attack, the Turkish defence ministry said in a statement. 

The Turkish ministry said it responded on Thursday with its own bombardment, while its army chief summoned Russia's military attache to warn of "severe" consequences for future attacks.

Turkey has 12 observation posts in Idlib, in northwestern Syria, where they are trying to maintain a tenuous ceasefire. 

Idlib is one of several "de-escalation zones" agreed under the Astana peace process last September that brought together Russia and Iran, who support the Syrian government, and Turkey, which backs certain rebel groups. 

But Damascus has intensified its attacks since late April, leading to fears in Turkey of a mass exodus of refugees from the province, which is home to some three million people. 

Earlier this month, the UN humanitarian chief declared that "a humanitarian disaster" is unfolding in Idlib, where Bashar al-Assad's forces have launched a brutal offensive, ending a cease-fire negotiated by Turkey and Russia in September.

Mark Lowcock told the Security Council that since Syrian troops began pushing into Idlib on April 30 an estimated 330,000 people have been forced to flee their homes and more than 230 civilians have died.

Read More: Syria Weekly: Will China fund post-war reconstruction?

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to Russia and Turkey to stabilise the situation in Idlib, home to over three million people, "without delay." He called the situation "especially dangerous given the involvement of an increased number of actors," and said civilians are again "paying a horrific price."

UN political chief Rosemary DiCarlo told that council that for Syria's close ally Russia, the presence in Idlib of radicals from the al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, "is not tolerable" and "for Turkey, time is required to effectively isolate and address HTS' most hardline fighters."

Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said that all military activities are in response "to provocations from terrorists," claiming HTS controls 99 percent of the Idlib de-escalation zone.

"We think that the issue is not that it's a humanitarian catastrophe," Nebenzia said. "It's clear that the issue is the desire to keep the territories that are not under Damascus' control for as long as possible regardless of who prevails in them."

Turkey's UN Ambassador Feridun Sinirlioglu told the council that the "fight against terrorism can in no way justify these indiscriminate attacks."

Meanwhile in May, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Syrian government of trying to sabotage Turkey's cooperation with Russia as they seek a solution to the eight-year conflict. 

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