Turkey threatens to hit Syrian forces 'anywhere'
Turkey warns Syria to stand down, while observers fear more violence yet to come.
By Rachal Aslett | Feb 12, 2020 | Print-friendly

Turkish President Recep Erdogan asserted Turkish control of parts of northern Syria on Wednesday, warning that he would strike Syrian forces "anywhere" if one more Turkish soldier is harmed in Syria. Erdogan delivered his remarks to Turkey's parliament, in a speech in which he said that he is determined to expel Syrian forces out of Turkish-occupied areas of Syria's northwestern Idlib region by the end of the month.

"We will do this by any means necessary, by air or ground," Erdogan said.

The northwestern Idlib is currently held by rebel forces that have Turkey's support to fight against the Syrian government. Turkey has established 12 observation posts throughout this area, as part of a September 2018 agreement with Russia, which backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The 2018 agreement declares Idlib a "de-escalation zone," where acts of aggression are forbidden. But Syrian military forces continue to attack rebels in Idlib, and rebels shot down a Syrian government military helicopter near Idlib City earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Turkey has poured thousands of troops and military convoys into Idlib in the past month in support of the rebels. And as Syrian forces move against rebel positions, Turkish forces have been caught in the crossfire: 13 Turkish personnel died from Syrian counterattacks in Idlib since the start of this month.

Erdogan said that Turkish forces have destroyed scores of Syrian military targets in response. The overall situation remains tense, according to Turkish military officials, and observers fear the violence could lead to a larger resurgence of the violence of Syria's nearly nine-year civil war.