Escalating to Deescalate? Why Turkey Is Targeting Syria’s Army

For the first time in Syria’s nine-year war, the Turkish military this week launched direct attacks on the Syrian army. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday that he ordered howitzers and F-16 fighter jets to hit President Bashar al-Assad’s forces near the Turkish border in response to the killing of eight Turkish soldiers in Idlib province in northwestern Syria.

“We are determined to continue our operations to ensure the safety of our country, our nation and our brothers in Idlib,” Erdogan warned. Turkey’s defense minister, Gen. Hulusi Akar, later claimed 76 Syrian soldiers were “neutralized” in attacks on more than 50 different targets in the area. The Assad government has not offered its own casualty figure, but the clashes have raised the stakes in a long and brutal battle over Idlib.

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