Photo Credit: Ahmad.aea.99 / Wikimedia
Idlib countryside

Some 65 Turkish soldiers were reportedly killed late Thursday night in an air strike in the Syrian province of Idlib near the Turkish border.

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Although the Turkish government initially acknowledged the deaths of only 22 of its soldiers, Hatay Governor Dogan announced there were 36 injured soldiers in the local hospital, and that the number of soldiers killed had risen to 29. The figure was subsequently updated to 33 dead by the HaberTurk news outlet.

The Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Messenger and the YouTube social networking sites were also blocked in Turkey as of Thursday night, the “NetBlocks” organization confirmed. “Social platforms Twitter, Facebook and Instagram became unreachable at 11:30 p.m. local time (8:30 p.m. UTC) via national provider Turk Telecom (AS9121) and subsequently all other leading service providers. The restrictions are technically consistent with techniques used to filter content in Turkey,” the NetBlocks site said in a report on its site.

Local sources blamed Russia for the attack, but both Turkey and Damascus were reluctant to officially place the blame on Moscow.

The office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a statement late Thursday night in response to the attack clearly placing the blame on Damascus, saying, “We have decided to respond to the Syrian regime for aiming its weapons at our soldiers. We will continue our military operations on Syrian soil.”

Turkish presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın spoke by phone with US National Security Adviser Ambassador Robert O’Brien, according to the HaberTurk news outlet.

However, Russia has been propping up the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the start of the civil war in March 2011 and has maintained intensive military support for the regime ever since.

Syria’s state-run SANA news agency blamed “terrorists in Idlib with Turkish support,” and said the attackers used “US-made shoulder-fired missiles to target Syrian and Russian warplanes; at the same time, the Turkish regime offers support to terrorists through artillery and shoulder-fired missiles in the battles along Saraqeb axis.”

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