Turkish troop deaths climb to 16 in Syria's Idlib this month

A Turkish soldier was killed on Saturday in Syria’s last rebel-held region of Idlib in a bomb attack by Moscow-backed government forces, marking the 16th military death for Turkey this month, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported.

The death of the tank mechanic arrives as talks over Idlib have stalled between power brokers in Syria, Turkey and Russia.

Turkish forces retaliated and destroyed 21 “regime targets”, the country’s defence ministry said. 

Syrian troops backed by Russian air power have been battling since December to eliminate the last rebel strongholds in the region.

Ceasefire talks between Turkey and Russia have thus far failed to make any progress as the flare-up on the ground continues.

Turkey has 12 observation posts built in Idlib according to a 2018 agreement made with Russia to prevent a potential attack of the Syrian government on the province, which is home to 3 million people, a large part of whom are civilians that fled from fighting elsewhere in the country.

The Syrian government launched an offensive on Idlib in April, saying that Turkey failed in removing jihadist fighters from a demilitarised zone established Turkey established with Russia. Some 1 million people from Idlib have fled to areas to near the Turkish border since the beginning of the year, creating another risk of massive refugee influx into Turkey which hosts 3.6 million Syrians.