Turkey on Sunday announced the launch of an offensive against the Moscow-backed Syrian regime.
Tensions have soared between Russia and Turkey — who back opposing forces in the Syria’s civil war — after an airstrike blamed on Damascus killed dozens of Turkish soldiers in Idlib last week.
Turkish and Syrian military exchanged fire over the weekend with Syrian forces targetting a Turkish drone and artillery and Ankara claiming to have shot down two Syrian fighter jets.
The situation in rebel-held Idlib was already volatile as the regime supported by Russian air power pressed an assault on the region, killing hundreds of civilians, in a bid to retake the last opposition enclave in an eight-year civil war.
The confrontation between the Russia-backed Syrian military and NATO-member Turkey, which supports Syrian rebels, has prompted worries over a wider conflict.
Migrant numbers have already surged along the rugged frontier after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seeking to pressure the EU over Syria, said the country had “opened the doors” to Europe.
“Following the heinous attack on February 27 in Idlib, operation ‘Spring Shield’ successfully continues,” Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said in a video shared by the Defence Ministry.
Turkish forces hit Syrian regime positions after Mr. Erdogan warned Damascus would “pay a price” for the air strike that killed 34 Turkish troops inside Idlib on Thursday.
Under a 2018 deal with Russia meant to bring calm to Idlib, Turkey has 12 observation posts in Syria — but several have come under fire from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.