Numerous Turkish armoured vehicles and tanks penetrated rebel-controlled northwestern Syria on Friday, the latest support conveyed by Ankara amid a Syrian government assault that this week brought the two countries’ troops into a rare confrontation.
The Syrian government, supported by its associate Russia, has held up a military offensive in Idlib province, directed at achieving a strategic highway that runs along with the rebel-controlled territory. President Bashar Assad’s troops have taken dozens of rebel-held towns and villages in the past two months, displacing hundreds of people in the process, reports The Associated Press.
Turkey, which supports the Syrian opposition and has been observing a cease-fire in the rebel enclave, opposed the government offensive, declaring it a breach of the peace it settled with Russia. In recent weeks, Ankara sent in troops and equipment to strengthen monitoring points it set up to inspect a previous cease-fire, which has since crumbled but also deployed around towns threatened by the Syrian military advances.
The deployment and the new defensive role brought Turkish troops into a direct and rare confrontation with Syria troops that killed at least eight Turkish military and civilian personnel and 13 Syrian soldiers on Monday.