An airstrike by Syrian government forces killed 29 Turkish soldiers in northeast Syria, a Turkish official said Friday, marking the largest death toll for Turkey in a single day since it first intervened in Syria in 2016.
Turkey said it retaliated Monday after “intense” shelling by Syrian forces killed five of its soldiers and wounded five others in Syria’s northern Idlib province, a marked escalation a week after a similarly deadly clash between the two sides.
Syrian government troops entered a strategic town in the country’s last rebel stronghold Thursday after fierce clashes with opposition fighters, even as Turkey sent reinforcements seeking to curtail the offensive, Syrian state media reported.
The Islamic State group’s self-styled “caliphate” across parts of Iraq and Syria seemed largely defeated last year, with the loss of its territory, the killing of its founder in a U.S. raid and an unprecedented crackdown on its social media propaganda machine.
Turkish forces and their allies attacked Syrian government troops in northeastern Syria on Thursday, killing some of them, and they also clashed with Kurdish-led fighters, the state news agency in Damascus and a war monitoring group said.
Kurdish-led fighters and Turkish-backed forces clashed sporadically Sunday in northeastern Syria amid efforts to work out a Kurdish evacuation from a besieged border town, the first pull-back under the terms of a U.S.-brokered cease-fire. Turkey said one of its soldiers was killed in the day’s violence.
Syrian forces on Wednesday night rolled into the strategic border town of Kobani, blocking one path for the Turkish military to establish a “safe zone” free of Syrian Kurdish fighters along the frontier as part of its week-old offensive.
The Syrian army's deployment near the Turkish border came hours after Syrian Kurdish forces previously allied with the U.S. said they had reached a deal with President Bashar Assad's government to help fend off Turkey's invasion, now in its sixth day.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the start of the campaign, which followed an announcement Sunday by U.S. President Donald Trump that American troops would step aside in a shift in U.S. policy that essentially abandoned the Syrian Kurds. They were longtime U.S. allies in the fight against the Islamic State group.
Syrian Kurdish forces who are allied with the United States issued a "general mobilization" call on Wednesday in northeastern Syria, along the border with Turkey, as Ankara threatened an imminent invasion of the area.