Turkey Kills Scores of Syrian Troops in Heavy Fighting in Idlib

Eight Turkish troops, 76 Syrian troops slain near Saraqeb

Faced with the prospect of al-Qaeda forces in Syria getting totally overrun, Turkey has sent troops back into the Idlib Province, and are attacking the Syrian military, nominally to defend themselves as the Syrian military was looking to reclaim the town of Saraqeb from al-Qaeda. Syria fired shells at al-Qaeda, and hit Turkish troops.

Russia and Turkey were meant to have a deal over this matter, but Turkey’s President Erdogan has warned Russia not to “stand in their way” in attacking the Syrian military. Erdogan had threatened to use military force on Syria Friday, and are now attacking them outright.

Turkish officials say in the course of sieging Saraqeb, eight Turkish soldiers were killed. The Turkish state media reported that in subsequent attacks they hit 54 targets in the vicinity and killed at least 76 Syrian soldiers.

Syria recently reclaimed the town of Maarat al-Numaan from al-Qaeda. The town, along with Saraqeb, are on the main highway connecting the capital of Damascus and the major northern city of Aleppo. The Syrian government clearly wants to control this valuable highway, and get al-Qaeda away from it.

Turkey, which has suffered their first combat deaths in the entire Syrian War, has a long history of acting to benefit the Syrian al-Qaeda faction, despite them nominally not being part of the Turkish-backed rebels.

When Turkey negotiated a safe zone in Idlib with Russia, they did so leaving a lot of al-Qaeda’s territory within the safe zone. While that was meant to be cleared of hostile forces on either side, it never was, and after months of fighting, Syria went after al-Qaeda again. Turkish officials now view that as a “violation,” even though al-Qaeda was never officially a party to any of these deals, and were not supposed to be recognized by any of the parties as the rightful rulers of any towns or cities in Idlib.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of Antiwar.com.