Syrian rebels retake key town in Idlib; airstrike kills Turkish forces

Turkish-backed Syrian rebels began the drive to retake Saraqib from Assad forces last week. File Photo by Yahya Nemah/EPA-EFE

Feb. 28 (UPI) — A Syrian regime airstrike on Idlib province killed at least 29 Turkish soldiers Thursday as opposition forces retook key territory in the region.

Rahmi Dogan, governor of Turkey’s Hatay province, said the airstrike by government forces also injured 36 people.

“There are critically wounded [people, following the attack,] and they are being treated at hospitals,” he told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.

The BBC reported that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a top-level security meeting in the wake of the attack.

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad carried out the attack after Turkish-backed Syrian rebels took control of a key town in northwestern Idlib province.

Opposition fighters captured the town of Saraqib, which is strategically located at the crossroads of two major highways in Syria.

Regime forces took control of the town in January in the last province still held by rebels. Assad sought to reopen the M5 highway, which connects Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Damascus before continuing on to the Jordanian border in the south.

Turkey launched a military offensive in the province last week, targeting government forces and with the aim of recapturing Saraqib.

Sources told the Daily Sabah that the opposition forces continued their advance to retake territory using artillery cover fire.

The Guardian reported it could be difficult for rebels to hold Saraqib amid an assault by Russian airpower to take territory in Idlib. Regime forces took control of more than 20 villages in the southern part of the province Thursday.


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