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Russian air strikes in Syria kill two Turkish troops, prompting retaliation

A Syrian or Russian airstrike hit the town of Bidama in the western Idlib Governorate. (Qasioun News Agency/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Turkey has said two of its soldiers were killed and another five were wounded in Russian air strikes near the northwestern region of Idlib in Syria on February 20, signifying an escalation in the civil war in which Ankara and Moscow support opposing sides.

The Russian Air Force, which is backing Syrian government forces, carried out the strikes with Su-24 bombers, the Russian Center for the Reconciliation of Warring Sides said in a statement the same day.

In turn, Turkey, a NATO member which is allied with militants opposed to President al-Assad’s government, retaliated.

The Turkish Defense Ministry claimed that as many as 50 Syrian government soldiers were killed in response, and that two armored personnel carriers, and other equipment were destroyed.

The clashes in Idlib, the last region held by rebels resisting Syrian-government forces, come a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned of an imminent Turkish offensive in the area.

Backed by Russian air power, Syrian forces are trying to capture the region.

Thirteen Turkish soldiers were killed in Syrian attacks earlier this month, prompting Erdogan to warn of future action should another Turkish soldier be harmed.