- Syrian troops killed five Turkish soldiers in northern Syria Monday, the latest escalation between the two nations in an increasingly tense fight.
- Russian and Turkish diplomats had begun meeting Monday in Ankara for emergency talks to de-escalate an already tense standoff between Syrian and Turkish forces.
- The battle is for control of the area around Idlib, the northwestern city close to both Aleppo and the Syria-Turkey border.
- Syria’s government forces, backed by Russia, have been pushing towards Idlib since December.
- Turkey fears that a continued offensive on the Idlib region from the Syrian government could drive millions of fresh refugees towards its borders.
- “Turkey cannot take 3 million more refugees, they appear willing to fight over it,” a NATO official in the area told Business Insider.
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Syrian troops reportedly killed five Turkish soldiers in an attack on an observation post in northern Syria as tensions between the two nations threatened to escalate and drag Syria’s Russian and Iranian allies into the conflict.
Russian and Turkish diplomats had begun meeting Monday in Ankara for emergency talks to de-escalate an already tense standoff between Syrian and Turkish forces.
The forces are in conflict over who controls the last remaining rebel held pocket in northern Syria, which is home to as many as 3 million potential refugees.
For weeks, the Syrian regime of President Bashar al Assad and its Russian and Iranian allies have been pushing into Idlib at various points on the M4/5 highway system that links virtually all of the major centres of northern and eastern Syria to the capital Damascus.
Turkey fears that if conflict persists, Syrians in the area could be pushed towards its borders, flooding Turkey with even more refugees. It is currently home to some 3.6 million refugees,Al Jazeera reported Monday.
Turkey has called the offensive, which took two small Syrian towns from the rebels over the weekend, a breach of previous deconfliction agreements brokered between Syrian and Turkey by Russia.
As part of this agreement, about a dozen Turkish military positions that ring Idlib as observation posts and three positions, have been surrounded or come under fire.
Just prior to the announcement that Russia would resume talks with Ankara on the issue, wire services and social media widely published photos of what appeared to be Turkish special forces and infantry massing along side newly equipped Syrian rebel allies and heavy armour for a counter attack on the Syrian lines.
— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) February 10, 2020
The movement of special forces ground troops into position with Syrian rebel infantry came just two days after the Turkish military reinforced its observation posts with at least 330 military vehicles worth of infantry and supplies to reinforce their positions.
One NATO military official assigned to the international anti-ISIS coalition said that current information on the actual operation was scarce but said it was their determination that “the Turks are not bluffing about refusing to let Idlib collapse.”
“Turkey cannot take 3 million more refugees, they appear willing to fight over it,” they said.
The current tactical issue is control of the Syrian town of Saraqib, which sits in a strategic position on the M5 highway that connects the capital Damascus with Syria’s largest city, Aleppo.
The collapse of the town’s defences, led by various Syrian rebel groups as well as Syria’s al Qaida affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, send hundreds of thousands of refugees to the border with Turkey, with few being allowed to cross the guarded border.
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