Turkey shoots down Syrian warplanes, kills hundreds of government forces

Turkish tanks fire on Syria
(Image credit: Screenshot/YouTube/BBC News)

Turkey shot down two Syrian Su-24 fighter jets and struck several bases deep in Syrian government territory, killing hundreds of Syrian forces and destroying armaments, Turkey's Defense Ministry said, calling the attacks retaliation for airstrikes that killed 36 Turkish soldiers on Thursday. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Turkey has killed 2,200 Syrian troops and destroyed significant amounts of heavy weaponry and armaments since the conflict between Syria and Turkey escalated in the past few days. Danny Makki, a Syrian analyst, put the number of Syrian troops killed in the hundreds.

Turkey's offensive appears to have erased or at least stopped Syria's recent push to recapture the last opposition strongholds in Idlib province, The Washington Post reports. "Russia, Syria's most important ally, refrained from intervening on its behalf for the first time since the Idlib fighting first erupted last year, suggesting an unwillingness by Moscow to allow the spiraling confrontation between Turkey and Syria to jeopardize its relationship with Ankara or to escalate into a wider conflict with an important NATO member." The U.S., Turkey's ally, also has troops in eastern Syria.

Turkey has repeatedly warned Syria and its allies to stop their march toward the Turkish border, sending waves of refugees into Turkey in what the United Nations has deemed one of the worst humanitarian crises of the nine-year-old Syrian war. Turkey has opened its northern border, allowing refugees to pass on to Europe. In return, Greece sealed its border, trapping hundreds of refugees in a no-man's land.

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"Over the past few days, Russia has done nothing in the face of an offensive that is rapidly destroying the capabilities of the Syrian army," Makki told the Post. "Russia's central interests in Syria have been secured, whether political or economic, so Russia has nothing to gain by entering into an awkward and bloody confrontation with Turkey, which is a member of NATO."

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