All evidence points to Russia in air strike on Turkish military convoy in Syria - columnist

Air strikes on Monday that targeted a Turkish army convoy heading to rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib will be remembered as a breaking point in Turkey’s Syria policy and all evidence points to Russia as being behind the attack, said Hürriyet newspaper’s columnist Sedat Ergin on Saturday. 

Turkish Defence Ministry said on Monday said that three civilians were killed and 12 were wounded when the military convoy heading to a Turkish observation post in Morek in northwest Syria was hit.

Turkey has 12 observation posts in Idlib as a part of a Turkish-Russian deal agreed on in September to establish a de-escalation zone in order to prevent an attack of the Syrian government against the province, which is home to 3 million people.

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, with backing from Moscow, launched a military offensive in Idlib in April, after the jihadi group Tahir al-Sham extended the territories it controlled in the province and started targeting neighbouring provinces. Syrian forces entered the town of Khan Sheikhoun this week, effectively cutting off Turkish troops at a military post near the town of Morek, 70 kilometres (45 miles) inside Syria.

“The incident of a military convoy of the Turkish Armed Forces becoming a target of an air strike and being stopped while heading to Idlib via M-5 highway will always be remembered as one of the most important breaking points in Turkey’s Syria adventure,” Ergin said. 

Ergin said the air strike precisely hit a civilian car that was leading the convoy. “Who was at the cockpit? A Syrian pilot or a Russian one?” he asked.

According to Ergin, the tone of the Turkish Defence Ministry’s statement seemed to imply that the Turkish authorities held Russia responsible of the attack. The statement said the airstrike took place three and a half hours after Turkey had informed Russia about its military convoy.  

Ergin also referred to Turkish veteran journalist Murat Yetkin, who said in his blog on Friday that the aircraft that hit the convoy was a Russian Su-22. 

“Though there is still no official confirmation, all signs point to Russia as Yetkin wrote. If the pilot is a Russian, then it is obvious that there is a serious situation between Turkey and Russia. Then we should admit that those who clashed were not the proxies of some countries but were directly Turkey and Russia,” Ergin said.