Turkey says will not stop Syrian refugees reaching Europe after troops killed

Updated 04:23 PM
Internally displaced Syrians walk along tents in an IDP camp located in Idlib, Syria February 27, 2020. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Following Turkey’s request, NATO will hold an extraordinary meeting Friday over attacks to Turkish soldiers in Idlib, northwestern Syria.

Late Thursday, at least 33 Turkish soldiers were martyred and tens of others injured in an airstrike by Assad regime forces in Idlib de-escalation zone.

“Today, the #NATO council meets at Turkey’s request to consult under Article 4 of NATO’s founding Washington Treaty on the situation in Syria,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Twitte

Turkey has sent thousands of troops and heavy military hardware into Syria and Erdogan has warned that Turkey would launch a full-scale offensive to repel Syrian forces unless they pulled back from Turkish observation posts in the region.

The killing of 33 Turkish soldiers and wounding of 32, announced by the governor in Turkey’s Hatay province bordering Syria, raised the Turkish military death toll in the region to 54 this month. 

Turkey’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said that in retaliation, “all known” Syrian government targets were being fired on by Turkish air and land support units. 

Details of the retaliation were not immediately clear.

Some one million civilians have been displaced near the Turkish border since December as Russia-backed Syrian government forces seized territory from Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, marking the worst humanitarian crisis in the nine-year war.

In anticipation of the imminent arrival of refugees from Idlib, Turkish police, coastguard and border security officials have been ordered to stand down on refugees’ land and sea crossings towards Europe, the Turkish official told Reuters.

“We have decided, effectively immediately, not to stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe by land or sea,” said the official, who requested anonymity.