ADDS REMARKS OF TURKEY’S COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
By Dilara Hamit and Jeyhun Aliyev
ANKARA (AA) – Two Turkish soldiers were martyred and five injured in airstrikes on Turkish elements in Idlib, northwestern Syria, Turkey’s National Defense Ministry announced on Thursday.
In retaliation, Turkish forces neutralized over 50 regime elements and destroyed five tanks, two armored personnel vehicles, two armed pickups, and one howitzer, the ministry said on Twitter.
Turkish authorities often use the word "neutralized" to imply the terrorists in question surrendered or were killed or captured.
It also wished condolences to the families of the martyrs and to the Turkish Armed Forces, whose troops are in the border region as part of a de-escalation zone meant to protect the local civilian population.
Responding to Turkish soldiers being martyred by Assad regime forces in recent weeks, Turkey has swiftly retaliated, neutralizing hundreds of Syria troops, and warning that it would not tolerate any Turkish soldiers coming to harm.
On Twitter, Fahrettin Altun, Turkey's communications director, slammed the regime for martyring Turkish soldiers who were in Idlib "to ensure peace and manage humanitarian activities."
Altun wished Allah's grace upon those who lost their lives and a speedy recovery to the injured.
"Our state will not leave the blood of our martyrs on the ground. Whoever makes Syria open to blood, terror, and tears will be accountable before humanity," he said.
Syria has been mired in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN figures.
Idlib, near Turkey's southern border, falls within a de-escalation zone laid out in a deal between Turkey and Russia in late 2018. The Syrian regime and its allies, however, have consistently broken the terms of the cease-fire, launching frequent attacks inside the territory where acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.
The de-escalation zone is currently home to about 4 million civilians, including hundreds of thousands displaced in recent years by regime forces throughout the war-torn country.
Some 1 million Idlib refugees have moved towards the Turkish border in recent months, fleeing attacks by the Assad regime and its allies, and producing a desperate humanitarian situation.
Turkey has called for an immediate halt to the attacks on Idlib, and for the cease-fire to be followed, warning that if the attacks do not stop Turkey will act.