Syrian government and Russian forces pound the village of Afis, on the outskirts of Saraqeb, near Idlib in northwestern Syria, Wednesday, March 4, where fighting is ongoing between rebel fighters and pro-regime forces.
READ MORE: Turkish forces shot down a Syrian warplane in Syria’s Idlib province Tuesday, in an escalation of Turkey’s military offensive against Syrian government forces. Ankara’s assault is in retaliation for the killing of 34 Turkish troops in an airstrike blamed on Damascus.
The fighting increases the threat of confrontation between Turkish and Russian forces, a danger the Russian and Turkish presidents will be seeking to avoid when they meet Thursday. Russia backs Syria’s government offensive near the Turkish border.
Turkey’s military campaign is showing little sign of abating, with the third Syrian fighter downed by the Turkish Air Force since Sunday. The Turkish Defense Ministry said Tuesday that in the past 24 hours, more than 300 Syrian soldiers were killed and more than a dozen tanks, armored vehicles and missile systems were destroyed.
The Turkish offensive is centering on Idlib, the last rebel stronghold, which Syrian forces, backed by Russian airpower, are fighting to capture. Ankara’s ongoing offensive is expected to continue at least until Thursday, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Moscow.