Syrian army takes pounding as Turkey tensions rise

PTI Damascus | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on October 13, 2012

The army has taken a pounding at the hands of rebels in northern Syria, a monitoring group said today, as tensions between Damascus and Ankara escalated over cargo seized from a Syrian passenger plane.

A rebel offensive killed more than 130 soldiers in two days, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, while more than 250 troops were taken prisoner as the insurgents advanced.

Forty one soldiers were among at least 96 people killed nationwide yesterday, including 28 civilians, the watchdog said.

On Thursday alone, the army suffered 92 losses — its highest daily total in the 19-month conflict.

As fighting raged on the ground, a war of words between Syria and Turkey grew angrier after Ankara said military supplies were on an airliner it intercepted en route from Moscow to Damascus.

And Turkey scrambled a fighter jet yesterday after a Syrian helicopter attacked the rebel-held town of Azmarin near the border, an official in Ankara said.

The Syrian foreign ministry accused Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of lying when he said the jet intercepted on Wednesday was carrying “equipment and ammunition shipped to the Syrian defence ministry” from Russia.

Sergei Lavrov, Moscow’s foreign minister, said the cargo was legal, in Russia’s first remarks about the incident.

“This cargo is electrical technical equipment for radar stations, this is dual-purpose equipment but is not forbidden by any international conventions,” Lavrov said.

“There were no weapons on board this plane, nor could there have been,” he said in remarks posted on the Kremlin Web site.

Turkey’s allies have warned of the risks embedded in the Syria conflict between the neighbours, which have exchanged cross-border fire amid fears the civil war could spark a regional conflagration.

Amid the growing alarm, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle was due in NATO partner Turkey on Saturday for talks with his counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu.

“It is important that no one pours oil on the fire. We are counting on moderation and de-escalation,” said Westerwelle.

Published on October 13, 2012
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