More than 20 Turkish soldiers have been killed in an air strike by Syrian government forces on Thursday night.
The news was confirmed by Rahmi Doğan, the Governor of Hatay, whose province borders Syria’s Idlib region.
Governor Doğan added that there were also a number of injured troops, several seriously, who had been brought across the border and were being treated in Turkish hospitals.
Another three Turkish soldiers were reported dead in a separate incident earlier in the day, bringing the confirmed total fatalities on Thursday to 25 – the highest number of casualties Turkey has suffered in Syria since the conflict began in 2011.
Unconfirmed reports believe the total dead from Thursday evening’s airstrike may be far higher still.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights believes at least 34 Turkish troops were killed, while some local news outlets have reported as many as 52 fatalities.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held a top-level security meeting in Ankara to discuss what response his country should give following this latest deadly strike.
Pro-Assad Syrian forces, supported by Russia, are aiming to retake Idlib from rebels who are backed by the Turkish military.
Turkey wants Damascus to respect the 2018 ceasefire lines, and had established military observation posts to enforce this, which have come under attack in recent weeks. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has threatened to attack Syrian government forces if they do not halt their advance.
However, the Syrian government and its ally Russia have rejected Turkey’s demand, claiming the Turks are guilty of their own violations by aiding rebel forces with artillery fire.
Earlier tonight, President Erdoğan held a top-level security meeting in Ankara to discuss what response his country should give following this latest deadly strike.
Top image, file shot of a group of armed soldiers running through fire during a night military operation. Photo © gorodenkoff / iStock