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Syrian advance encircles more Turkish soldiers

07 February 2020
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The Turkish observation post near Tal al-Tuqan appeared to still be occupied on 5 February and has now been cut-off from rebel-held territory. Source: AFP via Getty Images

Syrian government forces encircled Saraqib on 6 February, cutting off Turkish troops deployed to the strategically located town in a failed attempt to block the advance.

The state-controlled Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) released a video on 6 February showing what it said were soldiers entering Saraqib, which is located near the junction of the M4 and M5 highways and is 17 km from Idlib city.

This followed an envelopment of the town over the preceding days, with Syrian soldiers capturing Al-Nayrab to the west and Afis to the north.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) corroborated that Syrian forces entered Saraqib on 6 February after a rebel counterattack temporarily reversed the advance. It said resistance was minimal, with some rebel fighters escaping through the encirclement using farm tracks.

The presence of at least one Turkish position in Saraqib was confirmed on 1 February by photographs showing a Turkish flag flying on a building on the northern edge of the town that also had at least one Turkish ACV armoured personnel carrier parked outside.

The SOHR subsequently reported that Turkish soldiers were setting up additional positions around Saraqib in an apparent attempt to block the advance on the basis that the Syrians would not target them. It said one of these new positions was shelled by Syrian forces on 3 February.

The Turkish Ministry of Defence (MSB) confirmed that Syrian shelling early on that day killed seven of its soldiers and one civilian but did not say where the attack took place. It said it had informed Russia, which deconflicts between the Turkish and Syrian militaries, of relevant movements before the attack. The Russian Ministry of Defence said it was not informed.

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