NEWS /SYRIAN WAR
Syria war: Alarm after 33 Turkish soldiers killed in attack in Idlib
At least 33 Turkish soldiers have died in a Syrian government attack in opposition-held north-western Syria, in a major escalation of the conflict. Turkey, which backs the opposition, says it hit 200 government targets in response, "neutralising" 309 soldiers.
Russia, Syria's key military ally, says Turkish troops were attacked in Idlib province by Syrian forces while operating alongside jihadist fighters.
The EU has warned the crisis could descend into a serious conflict.
"There is a risk of sliding into a major open international military confrontation," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell tweeted. "It is also causing unbearable humanitarian suffering and putting civilians in danger."
The Turkish and Russian presidents spoke by phone on Friday. Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin both expressed concern and agreed on the need for "additional measures" to normalise the situation, with the possibility of a summit in the near future, the Kremlin says. Russian and Turkish officials are due to meet at the Turkish foreign ministry in Ankara on Friday.
Russia denies its own forces were involved in the fighting in the Balyun area.
Government forces, supported by Russia, have been trying to retake Idlib from jihadist groups and Turkish-backed rebel factions based there. The air strike came after the opposition retook the key town of Saraqeb, north-east of Balyun. Idlib is the last Syrian province to remain in opposition hands.
"Thirty-three of our soldiers were martyred as a result of the air strike... by the forces of the [Bashar al-] Assad regime," said Rahmi Dogan, the governor of Turkey's neighbouring Hatay province.
After President Erdogan held an urgent top-level security meeting in Ankara, Turkish forces began conducting ground and air strikes.
Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said that in addition to the casualties inflicted, five Syrian government helicopters, 23 tanks, 23 howitzers, and two air defence systems had been destroyed.