Syrian Gov’t, With Russian Support, Battles Turkish-Backed Rebels in Idlib
Syrian government forces battled rebels and came under Turkish artillery fire on Thursday as they continued their drive to retake the last rebel stronghold in the country after nearly nine years of civil war, in Idlib province. Thursday’s Syrian military advance was focused on the town of Saraqeb, 15 km (9 miles) east of Idlib city, and supported by Russian airstrikes on Turkish forces. Russian and Turkey are clashing over Syria despite a January 12 cease-fire deal between the two countries. The Syrian government’s push to retake Idlib has caused hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee toward the Turkish border over the past two weeks. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Thursday that Ankara expected Moscow to immediately stop the government attacks, which killed eight Turkish soldiers on Monday. “We conveyed our determination to our Russian counterparts,” he said, adding that Turkey was determined to stem the “humanitarian drama” in Idlib, which Turkey says has displaced nearly 1 million people. Also on Thursday, Syrian air defenses intercepted Israeli missiles that were fired at military targets in southern Syria including near the capital, Damascus, the Syrian defense ministry said.