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Syria war: Idlib air strike kills 33 Turkish troops in fresh escalation

At least 33 Turkish soldiers have been killed in an air strike by “[Syian] regime forces” in north-western Syria, according to a Turkish official.

More were injured in the serious escalation of the conflict between Turkish and Russian-backed Syrian forces. It is believed the deaths and injuries followed a precision strike on a two-storey building in the village of Balioun.

Turkey has retaliated against Syrian troops government targets. “All known targets of the regime have come and will continue to come under fire from the air and ground,” said the country’s communications director, Fahrettin Altu.

“We urge the international community to fulfill its responsibilities” to stop the regime’s “crimes against humanity”, he said. “We cannot stand by and watch as past events in Rwanda, and Bosnia and Herzegovina are repeated today in Idlib.”

Syrian forces, supported by Moscow, are trying to recapture Idlib from rebels who are backed by Turkish soldiers.

There is disagreement over who was responsible for the attack. Turkish officials have blamed the Syrian regime but sources in Idlib and unverified footage of the strike suggested it had been carried out by the Russian air force. Moscow has denied direct involvement.

The United Nations called for urgent action in north-west Syria, warning that “the risk of greater escalation grows by the hour.”

Turkey and Russia agreed a de-escalation deal for Idlib in 2017, but the agreement has been repeatedly violated.

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the last opposition-held territory in Syria in the last two months in the wake of an air campaign and ground offensive by the Syrian regime and its Russian backers.

Meanwhile, Turkey says it will no longer stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe. “We have decided, effectively immediately, not to stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe by land or sea,” an unnamed official told Reuters.

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