BEIRUT – Syria on Tuesday accused Turkey of sending more troops to the Idlib and Aleppo provinces while bombardments in the region continued.
The General Command of the Syrian Armed Forces said in a statement the Turkish regime had “deployed new military forces and escalated its aggression intensively” in northwestern Syria, a region considered to be the opposition’s last stronghold in the country.
The army, loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said it was willing to “respond to attacks by the Turkish occupation forces,” according to the statement issued by state-run news agency SANA.
The statement came after two incidents between the two countries over the past few days amid an escalation in tensions.
In a bid to ease the situation, the Syria regime’s ally Russia tried to mediate and sent a delegation to Turkey on Saturday, but no progress has been announced.
In a speech delivered on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his parliament will discuss on Wednesday “the steps to be taken from now on” in northwestern Syria.
On Monday, Turkish forces attacked Syrian troops in retaliation for an assault that killed five Turkish soldiers, according to Ankara.
The Syrian army accused Turkey of “intensifying its aggression” on populated areas and military points.
Although the Syrian army was close to capturing the M5 international highway, linking Syria’s two most important cities Damascus and Aleppo, four of its members were killed on Tuesday.
“A colonel, a captain and two soldiers died today after a Syrian Army helicopter was shot down in a rural area west of the city of Saraqeb while it was operating in the area,” a Syrian military source told Efe on condition of anonymity.
A surface-to-air missile launched by “armed factions” downed the helicopter, according to the source but did not name any organization.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Idlib and western Aleppo were predominantly under the control of Tahrir al-Sham (Organization for the Liberation of the Levant), an Islamist alliance that has affiliations with al-Qaeda.
Both Syria and Russia have labelled it a terror organization that should be expelled from the Arab country.
At least 12 civilians, including six children, were killed on Tuesday and more than 30 were injured in two attacks by Syrian troops on Idlib, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Syrian Civilian Defense, known as the White Helmets.
The bombardment occurred in a neighbourhood of the city and an industrial area, according to the United Kingdom-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a wide network of collaborators on the ground.
Syria has made no comment on the matter.
“Since the bombings in Idlib have started now, all areas are exposed to be bombed,” Mustafa, an 18-year-old who lives in Idlib told Efe by phone.
“The bombings were approaching,” according to the teenager, who was born in Hama but he has been forced out of his home three times.
David Swanson, spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told Efe: “In just 10 weeks, since 1 December, some 690,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Idlib and surrounding areas, most of them women and children.
“This is, from our initial analysis, the largest number of people displaced in a single period since the Syrian crisis began almost nine years ago.”