2019 Syrian-Turkish clashes
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Turkey is one of the major backers of the Syrian opposition, providing political, materiel and armament support to various rebel groups during the Syrian Civil War. Furthermore, the Turkish Armed Forces and the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (TFSA) have occupied areas of northern Syria. Syria views this as a gross encroachment on its national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Because of this, relations between the two countries have been incredibly hostile and strained, sometimes boiling into armed confrontation. The two nations severed diplomatic relations at the start of the civil war.
Turkey has set up and maintained a network of observation posts within the rebel-held region of Idlib since late 2017, which it has gradually expanded and increased in number.
The Syrian Government has preferred to work with groups vehemently opposed by Turkey, such as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in an attempt to limit Turkish influence in Syria. Pro-government forces fought on the side of the SDF during the Turkish military operation in Afrin, while the Syrian Army fought alongside the SDF against Turkey and the TFSA during the 2019 Tell Rifaat clashes.
During Fall of 2018, a demilitarization deal was struck between Turkey and the various rebel groups on one hand, and Russia, Iran and Syria on the other. The deal set out high goals, that included the full withdrawal of groups deemed 'radical' from the demilitarized zone, a withdrawal of rebel heavy weapons, reopening of Syrian highways and other clauses. The demilitarization deal was badly implemented, with Syria and Russia stating that Turkey and the rebel groups did not going through with their end of the bargain. In late April 2019, the Syrian Army launched a full-scale offensive against various rebel groups, after deeming them to be in violation of the demilitarization agreement. Turkey adamantly opposed the offensive, but it took place regardless. Turkey had hoped that it's observation posts would deter government forces from attacking, but the Syrian Army advanced, often striking and later capturing territories in very close proximity to Turkish observation posts. This situation created the necessary prerequisites for a confrontation between the Turkish and Syrian armed forces.
Initial shelling incidents
On 13 June 2019, during an ongoing offensive by the Syrian government against rebels in Idlib and Hama, the Turkish military reported that its observation forces stationed in the area as part of demilitarization agreement between Russia, Turkey and Iran came under fire from pro-government forces.
The Turkish minister of defense stated that in the attack, the Syrian military fired 35 mortar shells and that 3 Turkish soldiers were injured as a result. Afterwards the Russian government stated that a cease-fire had been established between Turkey, Russia, the rebels and the Syrian government, however the rebels and Turkish government denied a cease-fire had been implemented.
Following the incidents Turkey's foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated the attacks were intentional, the Turkish government also stated the Turkish military would retaliate to any attacks on their positions in Syria.
After the response from the Turkish government and the confrontation with the Syrian military, the Russia denied the Syrian government was involved in the attacks, blaming the Syrian rebels instead calling them "terrorists", and stated the rebels of attacked Turkish positions, the Russian government also stated that the Turkish government had asked the Russian military for help in protecting Turkish forces in Idlib and that the Turkish government had given the coordinates of rebel positions to the Russian military, which was denied by Turkey.
On 14 June, following continued standoffs between Turkey and Syria, the Turkish military deployed reinforcements to its positions in Idlib.
Syrian jets strike Turkish convoy
On 19 August, a 28-vehicle Turkish military convoy headed towards Khan Shaykhun through the M5 highway was targeted by Syrian warplanes multiple times. The airstrikes resulted in casualties among the rebel forces that were accompanying the convoy, reportedly killing a Faylaq al-Sham commander. The convoy was halted as a result of the airstrikes. The Turkish Defence ministry condemned the airstrike, stating that they viewed it as a violation of Russian-Turkish memorandum and that the convoy had only been transporting supplies to the Turkish observation posts in Idlib. Syria rejected the Turkish statement, stating that the convoy had been carrying weapons and ammunition bound for various rebel groups engaged in battle with the government.
Syrian army surrounds Turkish observation post
On 23 August, following the capture of a rebel pocket in the region, the Syrian Army fully encircled the Turkish observation post at Murak. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu denied that the observation post had been placed in a state of siege and said that the Turkish Armed Forces would not withdraw from it.
Airstrike on observation post
On 28 August, warplanes fired at the Turkish observation post at Shir Magar, just south of the rebel-held town of Shahranaz. It was not made clear whether the warplanes that conducted the airstrike belonged to the Syrian or Russian Air Forces.
On 30 August, just hours before an announced ceasefire would come into effect, Syrian Army units shelled a Turkish observation post near the town of Anadan with heavy artillery. No casualties were immediately reported.
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