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Syria: Government forces strike Turkish soldiers near Aleppo

Attack engulfed Turkish military vehicle in flames and reportedly wounded three soldiers
The burnt-out Turkish armoured vehicle reportedly attacked on 27 March 2022 (Social media)

Syrian government forces struck a Turkish military vehicle on Sunday, wounding several soldiers, near the rebel-held city of Atarib, west of Aleppo province in northwestern Syria, war monitors reported and sources told Middle East Eye.

The Turkish armoured vehicle was targeted by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stationed at what is known as Base 46 west of Aleppo, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

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The attack engulfed the vehicle in flames and wounded Turkish soldiers, according to the UK-based Observatory, which relies on a network of activists on the ground.

Following the attack, SOHR reported that its activists saw two Bayraktar TB2 drones flying over the western Aleppo countryside along the frontline.

"The attack was just after 11am local time with an anti-tank missile, injuring three Turkish soldiers," Abu Amin, a local war observer known as Observatory 80, told MEE.

"The attack is likely from the areas around Base 46, areas controlled by pro-Assad forces and the Kurdish People's Protection Units [YPG]," he said.

Adnan al-Imam, an activist, told MEE: "The wounded were taken to Turkey, and the Turkish army deployed in the area immediately, responding to the source of the attack with artillery shelling.

"The vehicle was travelling on the road between the city of Atarib and the village of Kafr Noran in western Aleppo province," Imam, who is based in the area, added.

Russian-Turkish dealing

Russian-backed government forces recaptured the huge Base 46 in early 2020 after extensive battles with the rebels, who had been in control of the base since 2012.   

The Turkish vehicle is known as a KIRPI II, designed by the Turkish defence company BMC and used as a heavy armoured troop carrier. It was first shown at the Defence Industries Fair in France in 2010.

A KIRPI II ran over and killed several civilians in northern Syria last July. Its crew reportedly wasn't able to monitor movements of people right next to the vehicle.

The Turkish army, an ally of the Syrian rebels, is extensively deployed in northern Syria, overseeing a de-escalation deal reached with Russia in early 2020.

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Under the deal, dozens of Turkish army military bases were set up in Syria to prevent new fighting between rebels and government forces, which could lead to new waves of displaced persons to Turkey.

Rebel-held areas in parts of Aleppo and Idlib provinces contain 4.4 million civilians, about half of whom live in tents, according to the United Nations.  

Martin Griffiths, the UN humanitarian affairs chief and emergency relief coordinator, told the Security Council on Thursday that the devastation wrought in Syria over the past 11 years "finds few parallels" in recent history.

More than 350,000 people have been killed, nearly 14 million displaced and basic services are absent, while five million children born since the start of the conflict have known nothing but hardship.

"Civilians continue to be killed and injured along frontline areas of northwest and northeast Syria," Griffiths said. Eighteen civilians were killed in northwest Syria in February alone.

Several Turkish soldiers have been killed and wounded in indiscriminate attacks in northwestern Syria, according to the SOHR, which put the number of dead Turkish troops in 2021 at around 100.