On Saturday, Turkey's Defence Minister said the ceasefire was still holding, and no violations had taken place since the agreement came into effect on Thursday, March 5.

Syrians ride motorcycles as Turkish military vehicles drive past a camp for displaced people near the village of Kafr Lusin in Syria's northeastern Idlib province on March 6, 2020.
Syrians ride motorcycles as Turkish military vehicles drive past a camp for displaced people near the village of Kafr Lusin in Syria's northeastern Idlib province on March 6, 2020. (AFP)

Saturday, March 7
Turkish-Russian joint patrols to begin March 15

Turkey's Defence Minister on Saturday gave an update on the implementation on the ceasefire deal in Idlib as agreed to with Russia.

Hulusi Akar said the ceasefire was still holding, and no violations had taken place since the agreement came into effect on Thursday, March 5.

As part of the deal, Turkey and Russia will carry out joint patrols in Idlib. Akar confirmed the first patrol will be on March 15.

He also said the strategic M4 highway in Idlib will be jointly patrolled and a safety corridor will be created there.

According to Akar, a Russian military delegation will also be visiting Ankara in a few days' time.

Friday, March 6

Turkish, German leaders discuss Idlib, migrants

Turkey's President Erdogan and German Chancellor Merkel held a phone call on Friday to discuss recent developments in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib and migrants who want to cross to Greece from Turkey to reach Europe.

With an agreement reached between Turkey and Russia on Thursday about Idlib, the protection of innocent civilians and safety of Turkish soldiers who risk their lives for the peace in the region, were ensured, said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

During the discussion with Angela Merkel, Erdogan mentioned the humanitarian plight on Turkey's land border with Greece.

Erdogan slammed Greece’s decision not to take into account the EU’s foundation agreement and Geneva Agreement, saying it is "a violation of international law and values of the EU's foundation agreement."

He also stressed the necessity to revise the arrangements between Turkey and the EU on migration.

EU countries welcome Syria ceasefire, urge aid access

EU countries gave a cautious welcome on Friday to a Russian-Turkish ceasefire in Syria but urged warring parties to allow in more humanitarian aid.

Foreign ministers from the 27 EU states held talks in Zagreb, Crotia on the crisis in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, where Ankara is battling Moscow-backed regime forces.

The ministers called "in the strongest possible terms" for the ceasefire to be implemented to protect civilians and "to enable the unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance by the international community."

But EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned that logistics were a bigger challenge than financing — the difficulties of trucking in supplies to feed and shelter a million people in the middle of winter.

Asked about a possible no-fly zone for Idlib, Borrell said, "We have to concentrate our efforts on the humanitarian side."

Thursday, March 5

Erdogan, Putin announce Syria ceasefire

Turkish President Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Thursday said they reached agreements that could end fighting in northwestern Syria.

According to the protocol agreed between the two leaders, a ceasefire came into force in Idlib at 21GMT (00.01 local time on March 6).

Putin also voiced hope that the deal would end civilian suffering and help contain a humanitarian crisis.

The two countries' foreign ministers said that the agreement involves a ceasefire that must be enforced starting at midnight along the existing battle lines.

The deal also envisages setting up a 12-km (7-mile) -wide security corridor along the M4 highway. The corridor will be jointly patrolled by Russian and Turkish troops, starting March 15.

Putin said he and Erdogan reached an agreement on a joint document during the talks in Moscow that lasted for more than six hours.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk during a meeting in Moscow, Russia March 5, 2020.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin talk during a meeting in Moscow, Russia March 5, 2020. (Reuters)

A senior Turkish official said the agreement was an accomplishment of Turkey's interest-oriented independent foreign policy. While the negotiations were being held in Moscow, the US president's special envoy was hosted in Istanbul.

The official said over three million civilians remain stuck in Idlib and the threat of irregular migration from this area is still real. 

"These most recent developments established the need for a comprehensive and effective solution to the humanitarian crisis in the region," the official added.

He said Europe should not allow Russia to weaponise refugees against European democracies.

Turkey warned that it won't allow Western governments to dictate terms in Idlib and has already taken care of its own interest and proved that it wouldn't act as anyone's proxy in the region.

Turkey dealt a heavy blow to the Assad regime with its own capabilities and demonstrated its commitment to playing a role in Syria's future, he said, and added, "We made clear that no attack on Turkish troops would go unpunished."

The official also stated that this agreement would not stop the US and the EU from supporting Ankara. Confidence-building measures, such as the deployment of air defence systems and intelligence sharing, are necessary, he added. 

The Turkey-Russia agreement does not mean a reversal of Turkey’s refugee policy, the official said.

"The EU failed to keep its promises under the 2016 agreement. The EU must take steps to cooperate with Turkey to end the humanitarian crisis rather than take measures against Turkey," he said.

"Russia decided to reach a settlement in order to not sacrifice its multi dimensional relationship with Turkey for the sake of the Assad regime's greed and ambitions."

Erdogan meets Putin to discuss Syria situation

Speaking in front of cameras at the start of their meeting, Erdogan said relations between Turkey and Russia were at a peak and his goal was to strengthen those ties. 

Russia backs Syrian regime forces in the Syrian conflict, while Turkey backs the opposition fighting them.

The Syria situation requires direct talks, Putin said, sitting alongside Erdogan. 

"My condolences for the death of your soldiers – as I said Syria didn’t know the location of your soldiers, we will discuss the situation in order not to repeat such incidents," Putin said.

Turkey has the right to defend itself – Pompeo

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo voiced support for Turkey in Syria as Ankara seeks to thwart an Assad regime offensive in the country's northwest.

"We believe firmly that our NATO partner Turkey has the full right to defend itself against the risk that's being created by what Assad, the Russians and the Iranians are doing inside of Syria," Pompeo told reporters at the State Department.

"Hundreds of thousands of Syrians from all faiths, but predominantly Muslim, are being harmed by what the Assad regime, the Russians and the Iranians are doing inside of Idlib. The Turkish government has asked us for a handful of things. We're evaluating all of those requests," Pompeo said.

Russian strikes kill civilians in Idlib - monitor

Russian air strikes on Thursday killed at least 15 civilians, including a child in the last major opposition bastion of Idlib in northwestern Syria, a Britain-based war monitor said.

The strikes after midnight targeted an area where displaced Syrians had gathered outside the town of Maarat Misrin in Idlib province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Wednesday, March 4

UN envoy urges 'immediate diplomatic solution' in Syria's Idlib

The UN's Syria envoy urged the presidents of Russia and Turkey to find an "immediate diplomatic solution" to the conflict in northwestern Syria.

"I am sure you all join me in urging them to find an immediate diplomatic solution that could spare civilians further suffering... and create more conducive conditions for a political process", UN special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen told Arab League, foreign ministers, in Cairo.

Erdogan says expects Syria ceasefire after Putin talks

Turkey's Erdogan said on Wednesday he expects his talks with Russian President Putin on Thursday to result in the rapid achievement of a ceasefire in northwest Syria's Idlib region.

Erdogan was speaking to reporters ahead of his visit to Moscow on Thursday for talks with Putin.

Kremlin hopeful Putin, Erdogan will agree to joint measures 

The Kremlin said it hoped Putin and Erdogan would be able to agree on a set of joint measures for Idlib when they meet for talks in Moscow on Thursday.

"We plan to discuss the Idlib crisis ... we expect to reach a common understanding on the crisis, the cause of the crisis, the harmful effects of the crisis and arrive at a set of necessary joint measures," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Two Turkish soldiers killed in Idlib 

Two Turkish soldiers have been killed and six others wounded in Idlib, Turkey's Defence Ministry said on Wednesday.

Turkish forces have killed 3,138 regime fighters and soldiers since the start of Turkey's Operation Spring Shield, the statement said.

The ministry listed the following as Syrian regime losses: three fighter jets, eight helicopters, three UAVs, 151 tanks, 47 howitzers, 52 rocket launchers, 12 antitank weapons, four mortars, 10 arsenal depots and 145 military, technical and combat vehicles.

Tuesday, March 3

One Turkish soldier killed in Idlib

One Turkish soldier was killed and nine others were wounded in attacks in Idlib, northwest Syria, Turkey’s defence chief said on Tuesday night. 

Turkey’s Operation Spring Shield remains a critical issue for the nation, Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters after a closed parliamentary session on the situation in Syria.

"I believe this to be a national issue. This is an issue of security and defence,” Akar said.

“We talked about what has happened in the field and answered questions. I believe it was useful," he added.

Turkey neutralises 299 regime forces in Idlib, Syria

Turkey’s Operation Spring Shield in northwest Syria hit 82 Assad regime targets, destroyed nine tanks, two howitzers, six rockets, and two vehicles and killed 299 regime soldiers, Akar said.

US willing to give Turkey ammunition for Syria's Idlib

The US is willing to provide ammunition alongside humanitarian assistance to Turkey in Syria's war-torn Idlib region, the US special representative for the region James Jeffrey said on Tuesday.

"Turkey is a NATO ally. Much of the military uses American equipment. We will make sure that equipment is ready and usable," Jeffrey told reporters.

Separately, the US Ambassador to Turkey, David Satterfield, said at the briefing that Washington is examining Ankara's request for air defence systems.

Syria regime fire kills 12 civilians in Idlib

Russian and Syrian regime air strikes in different locations in Idlib have killed 12 civilians, Anadolu Agency reported citing a war monitor.

According to White Helmets, a rocket hit the city centre of Idlib and killed nine civilians, four of them children.

Two more civilians were also killed in Udvan village by the regime's mortar shellings.

Another civilian was killed by the Russian air strike in Binnish, a district in Idlib.

Jet, drones downed in #OperationSpringShield 

Turkish Armed Forces killed 327 Syrian regime soldiers, Turkey's defence ministry said in its 24-hour report on Operation Spring Shield in Idlib against Syria's Assad regime.

One fighter jet, one UAV, six tanks, five howitzer/rocket launchers and two air defence systems belonging to the regime were destroyed, it said.

Turkish Armed Forces also took down three armoured vehicles and 6 military vehicles and destroyed an ammunition depot.

But the big setback to the regime was the downing of a Syrian L-39 fighter jet by Turkey.

Regime attack kills Turkish soldier

A Turkish soldier was killed in an attack staged by Assad regime forces in Idlib province, northwest Syria, Turkey’s defence ministry said.

The ministry announced on Twitter that Turkish soldiers who had been sent as reinforcements to Idlib to prevent conflicts had come under artillery fire from regime forces.

It said one Turkish soldier was killed and another was injured in the attack.

"Turkey retaliated against the attack with full force and regime targets were heavily struck and destroyed,” said the ministry.

Russian air strikes kill civilians in Syria's Idlib – civil defence

At least nine civilians in Idlib, Syria were killed when Russian fighter jets launched air strikes, sources with civil defence groups said late Monday.

Russian warplanes carried out a number of attacks in Idlib on frontlines and some civilian settlements, including Fua village.

According to civil defence sources, many civilians were wounded.

Monday, March 2

'Greek soldiers killed refugees'

Greek soldiers killed two refugees and seriously wounded another, Turkey's President Erdogan said while addressing a joint press conference with Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov on Monday.

The EU and world public opinion do not understand the issues faced by Turkey, which already hosts more than 4 million refugees, Erdogan said.

'Lasting ceasefire in Idlib, Syria is Turkey's goal'

Turkey is hoping and working for a ceasefire in the embattled Syrian province of Idlib, Turkey's president said earlier on Monday.

"For every one of ours killed, we destroy dozens of regime elements and make them pay a heavy price by destroying their jets and ammunition," he said.

"We rendered Nairab [military] airport useless with our attacks on Sunday."

Erdogan said he is meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday in Moscow.

US delegation arrives in Ankara 

A US delegation arrived in Turkey's capital, Ankara, on Monday to hold talks on Syria with Turkish officials. 

The delegation was accompanied by Kelly Craft, the US ambassador to the UN, and James Jeffrey, the US special envoy for Syria and also a former US ambassador to Turkey,  "amid growing alarm over escalating violence in Syria", according to a media note released by US mission to the UN. 

"Assad-regime forces, backed by Russia and Iran, have unleashed a brutal military campaign in Idlib, killing hundreds of civilians and forcing nearly a million people to flee, constituting the largest number of displaced people since the Syrian war began nine years ago," the statement read.

#OperationSpringShield continues with success

Akar said Operation Spring Shield is successfully continuing in northern Syria against regime forces.

"So far, two warplanes, two UAVs, eight helicopters, 135 tanks and five air defence systems belonging to Assad's regime have been destroyed by our armed forces," he said.

Akar added that since the operation began, 2,557 regime soldiers have also been killed.

Opposition forces have also recaptured three villages in Idlib from regime forces, including Jabal Zawiya.

Sunday, March 1

19 Syrian regime soldiers killed – monitor

Turkish drone strikes in Syria's Idlib province killed 19 regime soldiers on Sunday, a war monitor reported, as tensions soared between Damascus and Ankara.

The 19 died in strikes on a military convoy in the Jabal al Zawiya area and at a base near Maarat al Numan city, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The report came hours after Turkey shot down two Syrian regime warplanes in an escalating offensive against the Damascus regime in the country's northwest province of Idlib.

Regime airport, jets destroyed 

Turkey destroyed three air defence systems belonging to the Syrian regime, including one that downed a Turkish armed drone, the Turkish Defence Ministry said. 

It said two regime jets were also downed in the volatile Idlib province.

"Two SU-24 regime planes that were attacking our aircraft have been downed," the ministry said.

Two regime warplanes were shot down by Turkey in Syrian airspace and pilots ejected with parachutes, Syrian regime confirmed.

Meanwhile, Turkish Armed Forces also bombed the regime's Nairab military airport in Aleppo province, rendering it unusable, Anadolu Agency reported.  

Turkey launches Operation Spring Shield

Turkey launched a full-scale military operation against Assad regime forces in northern Syria on Sunday.

Operation Spring Shield is already yielding results, according to Akar.

He said since the operation began on February 28, 1 UAV, 8 helicopters, 103 tanks, 72 guns/howitzers/CNRA, 3 air defence systems and 2,212 regime soldiers have already been eliminated.

"We have no intention of confronting Russia but we want to stop the Assad regime's massacre of civilians. Our target is only regime forces and elements attacking our troops," he added.

Meanwhile, a Syrian regime aircraft was also shot down in Syria's Idlib province on Sunday, Anadolu Agency reported.

It is not yet known who shot it down, but reports indicate it was Syrian opposition fighters.

'Our goal is to prevent ethnic cleansing and war crimes'

Turkey's Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun on Sunday tweeted that Turkey's goal is to prevent ethnic cleansing and war crimes in Syria.

"The deconfliction zone in Idlib aimed to prevent atrocities and massacres against 4 million civilians in this area. Our goal has been to prevent ethnic cleansing and war crimes committed by the Assad regime, as well as displacement and more refugees. We have been left alone in this struggle."

Top Turkish military officials inspect Syrian border

Turkey's defence chief and high-level military officials inspected the country's troops on the Syrian border early Sunday. 

Akar, Chief of General Staff General Yasar Guler and commanders of Turkish Land and Air Forces monitored latest developments along the border, according to an Anadolu Agency correspondent at the scene. 

Lieutenant General Sinan Yayla informed Akar about day-long activities of armed unmanned aerial vehicles, multiple rocket launchers and manoeuvring elements.

Turkish, French presidents discuss Syria's Idlib

Turkey’s president spoke via telephone with his French counterpart about the recent situation in Idlib, northwest Syria, the Turkish Communications Directorate announced early Sunday.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Emmanuel Macron discussed bilateral relations, refugee crisis and regional issues, the directorate said.

Stressing that Turkey would retaliate against Assad regime attacks, Erdogan said he expected NATO’s concrete and clear solidarity during phone call.

He underlined that the humanitarian crisis in the region will be deepened as the regime continues its attacks.

Noting the refugee influx started to put pressure on Turkey’s European borders, Erdogan said he expected from Europe and France to offer concrete solutions and support for displaced people.

Macron urged Russia to immediately end attacks in Idlib.

Saturday, February 29

US, Turkey talk Patriot missile defence

US President Donald Trump on Saturday said the US has discussed many issues with Erdogan, including Syria, and that the Patriot [missile] issue was also included.

Trump, who was speaking at a press conference in White House, told a reporter: "We have many meetings with President Erdogan (in the context of Syria) and we are also talking about exactly what you refer to."

Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara wants the US to send Patriot missiles to Turkey for back-up in Syria's northwest province of Idlib.

Cavusoglu made the comment to reporters on Saturday in the Qatari capital, Doha, after a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Attacks by Syrian regime forces killed 55 Turkish soldiers this month in Idlib. 

Erdogan has threatened to push back Syrian forces if they do not pull back to pre-determined lines by February 29 at midnight. 

Funeral prayers held for Turkish soldiers

Turkey on Friday held a funeral for a Turkish soldier killed in Thursday's deadly air attack by Bashar al Assad's regime in Idlib, which killed 33 Turkish soldiers and wounded dozens.

The funeral prayer of Emre Baysa, held in Istanbul, was attended by family members and many army officials and Erdogan.

Funeral services were being held throughout the country.

Turkey destroys Syrian regime chemical warfare facilities

Erdogan on Saturday confirmed that Turkish Armed forces destroyed 7 Syrian regime warehouses storing chemical products in northwest Syria.

Speaking to AK Party members at Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, Erdogan also said more than 2,100 regime soldiers have been killed and more than 300 of their vehicles have been destroyed by the Turkish military.

Earlier, Turkey's Defence Ministry said its armed forces had taken out 8 tanks, 4 armoured combat vehicles, 5 howitzers and 2 multi-barrel rocket launchers belonging to the regime.

During his address, Erdogan also said he often hears the question "why is Turkey in Syria?"

He answered by saying: "we are in Syria because we have been invited there by Syrians who are suffering at the hands of the Assad regime, They have invited us and are begging for help. We also there because we want to secure a safe border zone."

Erdogan added that Turkey has no interest in Syria's oil or soil, just the civilians who have asked for help. 

He said Turkey will stay in Syria until the regime's aggression against civilians has stopped.

Turkey demands UN stop Syrian regime 'war crimes'

Turkey's UN envoy Feridun Sinirlioglu asked the UN Security Council to stop the regime's "war crimes" in Syria.

Speaking at an emergency meeting on Idlib, Sinirlioglu warned the regime not to make the mistake of targeting Turkish troops directly.

"Turkey doesn’t want war but will not hesitate to use force if and when its security is threatened," he said, adding "any provocation or harassment will be retaliated by all means".

"It is time for this council to say 'enough is enough'. The council has to stop the regime's war crimes and its reckless behaviour, which poses a threat to international peace and security," said Sinirlioglu.

One Turkish soldier killed, two wounded in Idlib

One Turkish soldier was killed and two were wounded in shelling by Syrian regime forces in Syria's northwest Idlib province, the Turkish Defence Ministry said, a day after 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in an attack in the region.

The ministry said on Twitter that Turkey "keeps on hitting regime targets" in the Idlib region in retaliation.

Turkey destroyed 387 troops, 31 tanks, 5 helicopters and 10 armoured vehicles in the past 24 hours, the ministry said. 

US to help Turkey in Syria via info-sharing, equipment

A senior State Department official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity said that Washington is looking urgently to support Ankara with information-sharing and equipment.

"We're working on ways to support the Turks. Again, this will not involve military moves by American units," the official told reporters. 

"As a NATO ally and a major foreign military sales partner, we have various information-sharing and equipment relationships with the Turks. We're looking at what we can do on an urgent basis right now to help them."

The State Department official said the military power of Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad's forces was very reliant on Russia and that the authorities in Damascus would not have been able to push the Idlib offensive without support and approval from Moscow.

Syrian regime has close coordination with the Russian government over air and missile strikes, the official added.

Following the State Department official, US top diplomat Mike Pompeo says Washington is engaging with Ankara and reviewing options to assist Turkey after the attack on Turkish troops in Syria.

"The US condemns this attack in the strongest possible terms. The Assad regime, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah must cease their ongoing attacks in Idlib," Pompeo added.

Turkey, Russia talk tensions in Syria

The presidents of Turkey and Russia spoke by phone to try to defuse tensions that rose significantly in Idlib.

In their phone call, Erdogan and Putin discussed implementing agreements in Idlib, the Kremlin said.

Turkey's Communication Director, Fahrettin Altun, said both leaders had agreed to meet "as soon as possible".

Friday, February 28 

Trump, Merkel express solidarity with Turkey

US President Trump "expressed his condolences and condemned" a bombardment by Russian-backed Syrian regime forces on Thursday that killed 33 Turkish soldiers, the White House said in a statement.

In a phone call, Trump and Erdogan called jointly on Russia and Syria to "halt" a military offensive in the Idlib region.

"The two leaders agreed that the Syrian regime, Russia and the Iranian regime must halt their offensive before more innocent civilians are killed and displaced," the statement said.

The Turkish communications directorate said on Twitter that the two leaders agreed by phone on the need to take additional steps to deal with the humanitarian crisis in Idlib, where nearly one million people have been displaced by the latest fighting.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Merkel sharply condemned the regime's assault in Idlib, urging Damascus and its backers to end their offensive.

"The chancellor condemned the ruthless attacks on Turkish troops and called for an end to the offensive operations of the Syrian regime and its supporters," said Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert following the German leader's telephone conversation with Erdogan.

Seibert said both parties agreed on the urgent need to reach a renewed ceasefire and to begin necessary talks as soon as possible.

Offering her condolences to families of Turkish victims, Merkel pledged solidarity with Erdogan in humanitarian support for those displaced by the conflict in Idlib. 

Will target regime positions in Idlib – Turkey

Turkey on Friday said the positions of the Assad regime inside Syria's Idlib have now become legitimate targets following a strike that killed 33 Turkish soldiers, widening anger in Ankara.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Putin in their phone conversation agreed to meet face-to-face soon, Turkey's communications director said. 

Fahrettin Altun said Erdogan told Putin that the current refugee situation along the Turkish borders was due to the Syrian regime’s negligence and deliberate acts.

He said that Erdogan, during his talk with Putin, clearly emphasised that the "blood of Turkey's martyrs" will never be left on the ground.

Altun added that in an environment where our country is under direct attack, he [Erdogan] said Turkey considers all elements of the regime "legitimate target" and that those targets will be under fire.

According to Altun, Erdogan also said Turkey expects that the regime will be obliged to comply with the Sochi agreement.

Also on Friday, Turkish officials told a visiting Russian delegation that an Idlib ceasefire must be established immediately and that the Syrian regime must pull back to pre-determined borders.

According to diplomatic sources, the meeting was held at the request of the Russian side. 

NATO calls on Russia, Syria to halt Idlib offensive

NATO's secretary general called on Russia and Syria to halt the offensive in Idlib and said, after a meeting of the alliance's ambassadors, that NATO stood in solidarity with Turkey.

"We call on Russia and the Syria regime to stop the attacks, to stop the indiscriminate air attacks ... we also call on Russia and Syria to fully respect the international law," Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference.

"This meeting is a clear sign of solidarity with Turkey, a key alley that suffers terror attacks and takes in the most refugees," he said.

NATO allies are looking into providing further support for Turkey, he added,

"We call on Syria and Russia to fully engage in UN-led efforts to find a peaceful solution for the conflict in Syria."

'No armed groups near Turkish soldiers at time of Idlib attack'

Turkey's Defence Minister Akar denied Russia's allegations that Russia was not aware of Turkish soldiers' presence at the time of the attack.

The attack on Turkish troops occurred although the location of our forces was known by Russia, Akar said.

There were no armed groups near Turkish soldiers at time of the Idlib attack, Akar said. The attack continued, hitting even ambulances, despite warning shots.

Moscow earlier said Turkish troops "were in the battle formations of terrorist groups" and that according to information provided by Turkey, there were no Turkish troops in the area.  

Russia's Defence Ministry was cited by the RIA news agency on Friday saying the Turkish troops had been hit by artillery fire from Syrian forces who were trying to repel an offensive by rebel forces.

It was quoted as saying Ankara failed to notify Moscow of the presence of Turkish troops in the area hit by shelling despite being in regular communication with the Russian military.

Greece says tightens sea, land borders after Idlib

Greece has tightened sea and land borders with Turkey after developments overnight in the Syrian region of Idlib, government sources said on Friday.

The Greek sources, who declined to be identified, said Athens was also in contact with the EU and NATO on the matter.

Greece was the main gateway for hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming out of Turkey in a mass exodus in 2015 and 2016, until a deal brokered with the EU stemmed the flow.

READ MORE: Syrians in Idlib are between Assad's savagery and freezing weather

NATO condemns regime-Russia strikes, calls meeting

NATO's ruling council will meet Friday for urgent talks on the Syria crisis after at least 33 Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike blamed on Damascus.

"The North Atlantic Council, which includes the ambassadors of all 29 NATO allies, will meet on Friday 28 February following a request by Turkey to hold consultations under article 4 of NATO's founding Washington Treaty on the situation in Syria," the alliance said in a statement.

Under Article 4, any NATO member can request talks when they believe their "territorial integrity, political independence or security" is threatened.

It is separate from the alliance's Article 5 mutual self-defence pact, which refers to an attack on any member's territory.

Ankara has called talks under Article 4 a number of times in recent years – twice in 2012, including after one of its jets was shot down by Syrian forces, and once in 2015 after a spate of terrorists attacks in Turkey.

After the 2012 incidents, NATO agreed to deploy Patriot missile batteries in Turkey as a defensive measure.

Thursday, February 27

Social media sites slow down in Turkey

In the aftermath of the attack, internet users in Turkey reported slow-downs and problems accessing social media sites. 

Netblocks said Twitter, Facebook and Instagram became unreachable around 2030GMT and the internet restrictions continued into the next day.

There were no broadcast bans issued.

Calls for no-fly zone

US Senator Lindsey Graham called for the establishment of a no-fly zone over Syria's Idlib and called on President Donald Trump to help stop the killing of civilians there by Syrian forces backed by Russia and Iran.

"The world is sitting on its hands and watching the destruction of Idlib by Assad, Iran and the Russians," Graham, a Republican and an ally of Trump, said in a statement. "I am confident if the world, led by the US, pushed back against Iran, Russia and Assad that they would stand down, paving the way for political negotiations to end this war in Syria."

The US State Department on Wednesday slammed the justification by the Syrian regime and its allies for their ongoing campaign in Idlib, denying any sort of interest on their part in fighting terrorism.

Western nations demand immediate ceasefire in Syria's Idlib

The US and key Western allies demanded an immediate ceasefire in Idlib which is facing what the UN calls an "unfolding humanitarian catastrophe" but Russia ignored their calls and said it will keep helping the government eliminate "terrorists" from Idlib.

The stand-off came at a UN Security Council meeting on Syria, where the UN’s deputy humanitarian chief Ursula Mueller said almost 950,000 people have fled an advancing Syrian government offensive since it began on December 1. 

She described a video conversation last week with 14 Syrian women in Idlib and northern Aleppo who are humanitarian workers and said what is happening "is beyond imagination" and "not humanly tolerable".

Turkish parties extend condolences

"I wish Allah's mercy to martyred soldiers and extend my condolences to their families and our nation. Allah bless our soldiers," Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party, said on Twitter.

Meral Aksener, the head of the opposition IYI Party, also turned to Twitter to extend her condolences.

"I wish Allah's mercy to our heroes who became martyrs for the motherland," Aksener said.

According to a statement by the opposition Nationalist Movement Party, the party’s leader Devlet Bahceli and other senior members follow the latest developments in Idlib from the party’s headquarters.

Turkey’s Vice President Fuat Oktay said the Assad regime will pay for the attack.

“Assad, the head of a terror state and a war criminal, and Syrian regime elements will pay a heavy price for this treacherous attack,” Oktay said.

UN calls for ceasefire

Shortly after the attack, the UN secretary general reiterated his call for an immediate ceasefire and expressed serious concern about the risk to civilians from escalating military actions, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

“Without urgent action, the risk of even greater escalation grows by the hour," Dujarric said.

The UN secretary general is following with "grave concern" the escalation in Idlib and reports dozens of Turkish soldiers killed by Syrian regime air strikes, UN spokesman added.

Turkey hits back at regime – Altun

In a press release following the emergency security meeting in Ankara, Turkey's Communication Director Altun said Turkish air and land forces responded with suppressive fire against all known Syrian regime targets.

“All identified regime targets have been hit by our air and land forces,” the statement said.

"Today, we cannot and will not spectate that what happened in Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina in the past is repeated in Idlib," Altun said.

“With this opportunity, we call on all international community, especially the parties of the Astana Process, to fulfil their responsibilities in order to stop the crimes of the regime committed against the humanity,” he added.

Turkish Armed Forces have destroyed a total of 1,709 regime targets in operations in Idlib since February 10, 2020, security sources shared on Thursday night.

The Turkish army destroyed a total of 55 tanks, three helicopters, 18 armoured vehicles, 29 howitzers, 21 military vehicles, four Docka anti-aircraft guns, six ammunition depots and seven mortars in the operations, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Turkey will not stop Syrian refugees reaching Europe 

Shortly after the killing of the Turkish soldiers, senior officials announced Turkey will no longer close its border gates to refugees who want to go to Europe.

Turkey will no longer stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe, a senior Turkish official said.

READ MORE: Turkey won't stop Syrian refugees reaching Europe

Erdogan attends marathon security meeting

Erdogan held a six-hour emergency security meeting in Ankara following the regime air strike on Turkish soldiers.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also spoke to Stoltenberg by telephone following the attack. 

Stoltenberg urged de-escalation and condemned the "indiscrim inate" air strikes in the call with Cavusoglu.

Turkey’s Defence Minister Akar and airforce and army commanders are monitoring the situation from Hatay.

33 Turkish soldiers killed in Syria's Idlib

A Syrian regime air strike killed 33 Turkish soldiers in Syria's Idlib province, Turkish officials said.

Soldiers wounded in the attack by the Syrian regime were being treated at hospitals in Turkey, said Rahmi Dogan, governor of Hayay, a province neighbouring Syria. 

Turkey has had 54 soldiers killed in Syria's northwest Idlib province since the beginning of February, including the latest fatalities.

'Media reports saying Turkey fired on Russian warplanes fake'

Russian media outlets accused the Turkish army was firing at Russian aircrafts in Idlib province.

Turkey denied the reports. Citing senior Turkish sources, state-run Anadolu Agency said it was not true that "elements of the Turkish Armed Forces fired on Russian planes in [Syria's] Idlib".

"It is unrealistic and the Turkish soldier never targeted to Russian troops and Russian planes," the news agency said.

The rebuttal comes after some Russian media outlets alleged that the Turkish army was firing at Russian aircrafts in Idlib province.

READ MORE: What will happen in Syria’s Idlib? 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies