Syrian government troops were killed by Turkish shelling on Monday in the northwestern region of Idlib in retaliation for a deadly regime attack, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.
The Turkish strike followed Syrian regime shelling in Idlib that killed four Turkish soldiers, according to the Turkish defense ministry.
Erdogan called it an “ongoing operation,” and said that 30 to 35 Syrian forces were killed in the counterattack. The Syrian Arab Army did not release a casualty toll.
He urged regime ally Russia not to stand in the way of Ankara’s response.
The Turkish soldiers were killed near Saraqeb town, 15 km (9 miles) to the east of the city of Idlib, Reuters reported a Turkish security official as saying.
The clash is a rare confrontation between Syrian forces and Turkish soldiers who are based in parts of Syria’s north and northwest where Ankara backs a host of rebel groups.
It risks a serious escalation in a region that has come under heightened attacks by the Syrian military and Russian forces in recent weeks, displacing hundreds of thousands of people.
Erdogan last week warned that Turkey would use military force if any of its positions in Idlib were threatened by attacks.
Turkey has 12 observation posts in the region as part of a Turkey-Russia deal to prevent a regime offensive.
Turkish media on Sunday reported that Turkey’s military sent reinforcements to the region to bolster the forces stationed at the posts.
With reporting from AFP