Turkey has announced it will launch a military offensive against Bachar al-Assad's regime in the Idleb region (North West Syria).
The operation is in response to Syrian government air strikes that caused heavy Turkish losses this week, with at least 33 Turkish soldiers dead.
Operation “Spring shield” was launched after the Syrian regime's attack on Idleb on 27 February. Turkish Defence minister Hulusi Akar said the operation had so far been a success during a televised address on Sunday.
Turkey increased the number of drone attacks against Syrian regime positions on Saturday, but this is the first time Turkey has officially announced they were part of a more general operation.
Akar said the goal was to “end the regime’s massacres and prevent a massive wave of immigration.”
He said Turkey “neither intended nor wanted to enter into a confrontation with Russia,” which supports Assad’s regime. But he did say that Turkey expected Russia to put pressure on the Syrian government to “end the attacks.”
Erdogan’s statements come after weeks of escalation between Turkey and Syria in the Idleb region.
33 Turkish soldiers were killed in air raids attributed to the Syrian regime on Thursday, the highest number of Turkish losses since it started operating in Syria in 2016.
Nearly 90 soldiers attached to the Syrian government and allied groups were killed during Turkish counter-attacks on Friday and Saturday, according to the Syrian Human Rights Observatory.
The Syrian regime has been conducting deadly offensives to retake the Idleb region since December, with support from Russian air strikes. Idleb is the last remaining rebel and Jihadist stronghold in Syria.
These offensives have caused friction between Turkey and Russia.
Although Turkey supports some rebel groups and Russia supports the regime, they have increased cooperation in Syria over the last few years.
The Brussels Times