Turkey Kills Over 50 Syrian Troops, Russian Warplanes Intervene to Halt Offensive

A reminder that there are other things than the corona virus outbreak going on in the world.

Conflict in Syria’s embattled Idlib Province, the last stronghold of the ISIS uprising which once threatened to overrun both Syria and Iraq and establish a new Islamic Caliphate in the region once known as the Levant,  has escalated substantially during the past week, with Turkish government forces attacking the Syrian army and claiming to have killed over 50 soldiers loyal to President Assad.  Russia, the main Syrian ally in the conflict which is basically a showdown between Alawite (Shia) and Salafist (Sunni) muslim sects, took the pressure off Assad and sent a clear message to Turkey’s President Erdogan by sending in warplanes to halt to Turkish assault, and warning the regime in Ankara away from continued action.

Turkish officials tried to justify the incursion into Syrian territiry by claiming Syrioan forces had killed two Turkish soldiers who were in Idlib to “establish peace” and that the attack was only retaliation for that act of war. President Erdogan has threatened strikes anywhere in response to attacks on and injuries to Turkish soldiers. That he can make such a threat when Turkish military forces have no right to be in Syrian territory demonstrates the shambolic state of politics in the eastern Mediterranean region.

Turkish-backed rebels supported by Turkish heavy artillery launched the attacks on Syrian forces trying to oust ISIS rebels from Idlib, an area close to Syria’s border with Turkey.  Syria responded but with their military weakened by the years of conflict with the ISIS rebels were ultimately forced to request Russian help, and airstrikes were launched by Russian Su-24 fighter jets against attacking forces. Russia also contacted Turkey and told them to stop shelling.

While this particular flare-up appears to be over, fighting looks set to intensify as Erdogan, a leader whose sanity is at best questionable, seems determined to pick a fight with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Putin called the situation a “worst case scenario,” and has demanded that Turkey stop backing terrorist groups in Idlib. Turkey has vowed they will not leave Idlib to Syria, and reiterated demands that Syria unconditionally cede the province to the mostly al-Qaeda-led rebels therein. Erdogan also has stated his intention to seize and annexe territory in Kurdistan currently under Syrian and Iraqui rule but designated an autonomous region by United Nations treaty.

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