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Russia conducts airstrikes against Turkey-backed forces in Idlib

Turkey said two of its soldiers were killed and five wounded in an airstrike in the northwest Idlib province

Russia on Thursday urged Turkey to stop “supporting terrorists” in Syria, saying Su-24 warplanes had carried out airstrikes against armed groups backed by Ankara.

“We urge the Turkish side, in order to avoid incidents, to cease support of the actions of terrorists and handing them arms,” the Russian defense ministry said in a February 20 statement.

Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, accused Turkey of aiding rebels fighting government forces in the northwestern Idlib province by firing artillery as the rebels carried out an attack.

The defense ministry said that on Syria’s request its bombers carried out strikes on “terrorist armed formations,” allowing the Syrian forces to repel the attack. It said four Syrian troops were injured in the attack.

Earlier Thursday, fighters from the Hamza and Sultan Murad groups, which fight under the banner of the Turkey-backed Syrian National Army, said they had launched an offensive against Assad’s forces and its Russian allies in the town of Nayrab in eastern Idlib province.

Separately, Turkey said two of its soldiers had been killed in an airstrike in Idlib, with Fahrettin Altun, the Turkish president’s communications director, blaming the Syrian regime.

The Russian defense ministry said it told Ankara that it had spotted Turkish artillery firing on Syrian units, wounding four soldiers.

“We note this is not the first case of support for rebel fighters by Turkey,” the defense ministry said.

Turkey asked the U.S. to deploy two Patriot missile defense-batteries to deter any further attacks, Bloomberg news reported.

“Ankara could use F-16 warplanes to strike units loyal to Assad in Idlib if the Patriots were deployed in Hatay on Turkey’s border to provide protection,” the report quoted an unnamed Turkish official as saying.

Russia on Wednesday warned Turkey against attacking Syrian forces after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to launch an operation in Syria’s Idlib region.

With reporting from AFP

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