Turkey says Syrian gov’t attack on convoy killed 3 civilians: report

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Turkey’s Defense Ministry said three civilians were killed and 12 others were wounded in an air attack on one of its convoys in Syria, Reuters reported.

“Despite repeated warnings we made to the authorities of the Russian Federation, the military operations by the regime forces continue in Idlib region in violation of the existing memorandums and agreements with the Russian Federation,” the ministry said in a statement.

Syrian airstrikes hit near a Turkish military convoy that approached frontlines in northwest Syria on Monday as government forces advanced on a rebel-held town, a monitor and a rebel source said.

Syrian state media called the Turkish convoy an act of aggression and said it had entered to help insurgents in the town of Khan Sheikhoun fighting an army advance.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group that reports on the war, said the convoy was stuck on a highway after airstrikes prevented it from continuing southwards. It said a fighter accompanying the convoy was killed.

Overnight, Syrian army troops reached the edges of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib, a rebel official and a monitor said.

The advance on the town, which has been in rebel hands since 2014, threatens to encircle and expel insurgents from their only patch of territory in neighboring Hama province.

The northwest is the last major stronghold of the opposition to Assad, whose military has been waging its latest offensive there since the end of April with Russian help.

The escalation has killed at least 500 civilians and uprooted hundreds of thousands, many stranded near the border with Turkey, the United Nations says.

Turkey, which hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees and warns it cannot accept more, fears the onslaught in Idlib could spark a new influx.

A series of truces brokered via Russian-Turkish talks have failed to end the fighting in Idlib, where Ankara has a dozen military positions.

A witness and a rebel source from the Turkey-backed Failaq al-Sham faction said the Turkish convoy entered Idlib on Monday but was stopped because of heavy bombing nearby.

Syrian state news agency SANA, citing a foreign ministry source, said the Turkish convoy loaded with munitions would not affect “the determination of the Syrian Arab Army to keep hunting the remnants of terrorists.”

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