Two Syrian warplanes were shot down on Sunday by Turkish forces in Idlib in northwestern Syria amid direct confrontations between Syrian and Turkish troops, reported Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA).
Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said that Turkey launched “Operation Spring Shield” in Idlib against Syrian forces on Sunday, in response to the Syrian attack last Thursday, which killed at least 33 Turkish soldiers.
Meanwhile, SANA confirmed that the two jets were downed and that the four pilots ejected with parachutes and landed safely. The Turkish Defence Ministry stated that the Turkish forces had also destroyed three Syrian regime air defence systems, including one that downed a Turkish armed drone.
Earlier, SANA said it had downed a drone inside northwest Syria, and was closing its airspace for any flights or drones across the country’s northwestern region. It said any aircraft that penetrates Syrian airspace will be treated as hostile and shot down.
Akar noted that the operation’s only goal is self-defense against Syrian soldiers and units that have attacked Turkish troops in the area, explaining that Turkey had “neutralized” more than 2,200 Syrian troops, 103 tanks, and eight helicopters.
Highlighting that Turkey does not aim to face off Russia, he said “we have no intention to confront Russia, but we want to stop the Assad regime’s massacre of civilians. Our target is only regime forces and elements attacking our troops.”
Operation Spring Shield is the fourth Turkish military operation in northern Syria since 2016. On Saturday, Turkey had asked Russia to stay out of Turkey’s fight against the Syrian government. Turkey’s president Tayyip Erdogan is to travel to Moscow on 5 March to discuss the Syrian crisis with his Russian counterpart.
The UN said Sunday that at least 13,000 people were gassed on Turkey’s land border with Greece, one day after Erdogan’s announcement about opening Turkey’s western borders to migrants and refugees to head into the European Union.
Clashing with Migrants, the Greek police fired tear gas and stun grenades at migrants who approached the border attempting to cross.
Others tried to enter Greece by sea crossing from the Turkish coast to the Greek islands. The Greek Merchant Marine Ministry, indicated that there is a clear increase in the number of people arriving by dinghies from the nearby Turkish coast. The ministry added that around 390 people have arrived in Greece in several boats since Sunday morning.