A suspected Syrian army helicopter dropped barrel bombs on Turkish-backed opposition fighters yesterday, the Turkish military said, in what appeared to be the first direct clash with Syrian forces since Turkey launched a cross-border incursion in August.
A helicopter “assessed to belong to regime forces” bombed the opposition fighters in a village near Akhtarin, five kilometres southeast of Dabiq, the Turkish military said in a statement. Dabiq is a former Daesh stronghold which opposition groups seized this month.
Two Turkish-backed opposition fighters were killed and five were wounded, the statement said.
The Syrian military said last week the presence of Turkish troops on Syrian soil was a “dangerous escalation and flagrant breach of Syria’s sovereignty“. It warned it would bring down any Turkish warplanes entering Syrian air space.
Forces allied to the Syrian government repeated their threat earlier today by warning Turkey that any advance towards the north and east of Aleppo would be met “decisively and with force”.
The field commander of the forces allied to Damascus made the comments during a tour of frontlines to the north of Aleppo in a written statement sent to Reuters by an official from the same alliance.
Turkey launched “Operation Euphrates Shield” two months ago, sending tanks and warplanes into Syria in support of the largely Turkmen and Arab opposition groups to push Daesh from the border and prevent Kurdish militias taking ground in their wake.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that the Turkish-backed forces would press on to the Daesh-held town of Al-Bab, around 15 kilometres from their current position. The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia are also seeking control of the town.