Turkey warned on Tuesday it will retaliate “in self-defense” if any of its army posts in northwest Syria are threatened amid increasing attacks by regime forces on the country’s last major opposition bastion.
Ankara established 12 observation posts under a September 2018 deal with Russia, a major ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to prevent any onslaught in Idlib.
The city is home to some three million people, around half of whom have been displaced by violence in other areas.
But despite a ceasefire arranged by Damascus ally Moscow and Ankara, which backs the rebels, the regime’s deadly offensive has sparked an exodus of thousands of civilians toward the Turkish border.
“The regime’s attacks on Idlib are massacring innocent civilians and causing humanitarian tragedy,” the Turkish defense ministry said on Twitter.
“A response will be given in self-defense to any attempts that would jeopardize the security of our observation and control posts in the region,” the ministry added.
In December, al-Assad’s forces surrounded one of the Turkish posts in Idlib.
On an official visit to African country of Senegal, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said civilians were fleeing toward the Turkish border.
“There is a movement toward our border. We have taken our measures,” he said, adding that Turkey was building homes inside Syria for people fleeing Idlib.
“We are following the process with sensitivity. I hope we will reach peace in Idlib.”