A convoy carrying supplies to a Turkish military outpost in Syria’s embattled Idlib province was struck by aircraft supporting the Syrian government forces, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said on Monday, 19 August.
The convoy was headed south towards a Turkish observation point near Khan Sheikhoun, where Turkish Army forces and Syrian rebels are at risk of being encircled by the advancing Syrian Army.
“During the transit an air strike launched on our convoy at 8:55 a.m. [0555 GMT] caused three civilians to lose their lives and left 12 civilians wounded,” the statement read, adding that the Turkish government “strongly” condemns the attack.
The convoy included several dozen armored vehicles and personnel carriers, as well as tanks, according to AFP.
Turkey maintains 12 observation posts in Idlib province, which is largely controlled by the National Liberation Front coalition of anti-Assad forces supported by the Turkish army, and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an alliance of jihadist groups, some of which have links to al-Qaeda.
Naji Mustafa, a spokesperson for the NLF, told AFP that the convoy was headed to the southernmost Turkish outpost at Murak. The outpost may be encircled if pro-regime forces capture Khan Sheikhoun.
The statement read that the Russian government was informed of the convoy in advance.
The Russian military is advising pro-Syrian regime forces on the ground in Idlib and Russian planes continue to bombard the rebel-held province.
The Syrian government denounced the convoy prior to the strike.
“Turkish vehicles loaded with munitions … are heading towards Khan Sheikhoun to help the terrorists,” a Syrian foreign ministry source told the state-run SANA news agency, using the regime’s blanket term for rebels and jihadists.
This “confirms once again the support provided by the Turkish regime to terrorist groups,” SANA reported the source as saying.
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the fighting since the regime declared the Idlib offensive on April 30, the United Nations has said.
A ceasefire reported by Syria’s state news agency earlier this month failed to hold.
Russia and Turkey agreed in September 2018 to create a deescalation zone in Idlib, but the jihadist groups refused to withdraw from the area as part of the agreement.
The regime appears to be focusing its efforts on controlling the M5 highway, a strategic artery which links Aleppo to Damascus and continues southward to the Jordanian border.
Russian and Syrian aircraft have repeatedly targeted civilian neighborhoods and hospitals during the offensive according to the U.N.
Ankara severed diplomatic ties with Damascus in 2012 due to the outbreak of Syria’s civil war.
With reporting from AFP