Turkish official says 33 soldiers killed in airstrike by Syrian government forces
Another Turkish official said 'all known' Syrian government targets under fire in retaliation
An airstrike by Syrian government forces in Syria's northwestern Idlib region killed 33 Turkish soldiers, the local governor in Turkey's southeastern province of Hatay said early Friday, raising an earlier death toll.
He had previously said the death toll from the strike was nine Turkish soldiers, then 22.
Rahmi Dogan, the governor of Turkey's Hatay province, which borders Syria's Idlib region, said 33 troops were killed and others were seriously wounded in the attack late Thursday.
In addition to three Turkish soldiers killed in Idlib earlier Thursday, the casualties mark the largest death toll for Turkey in a single day since Ankara first intervened in Syria in 2016.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was holding an emergency security meeting in Ankara, state-run Anadolu news agency reported. Meanwhile Turkish Foreign Minister Mevult Cavusoglu spoke to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg by telephone.
Two Turkish security officials said later that the Turkish army is retaliating with artillery fire at Syrian government targets.
"All known" Syrian government targets are under fire by Turkish air and land support units, Turkey's communications director Fahrettin Altun said separately on Friday, according to state-run Anadolu news agency. Turkey has decided to "respond in kind" to the attack by the Syrian government, Altun said.
The airstrike came after a Russian delegation spent two days in Ankara for talks with Turkish officials on the situation in Idlib, where a Syrian government offensive has sent hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing toward the Turkish border.
The offensive has also engulfed many of the 12 military observation posts Turkey has in Idlib.
The airstrike also came after Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters retook a strategic northwestern town from government forces on Thursday, opposition activists said, cutting a key highway just days after the government reopened it for the first time since 2012.
With files from The Associated Press