Turkey’s foreign minister has warned Bashar al-Assad’s regime not to “play with fire” after a Turkish military convoy was bombed in north-west Syria. “These attacks could pave the way for a disaster,” Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday, adding that Ankara would “do whatever is necessary for our soldiers’ security”. The heightened rhetoric comes amid a dramatic escalation of violence in one of the last major battlegrounds of the Syria civil war, which has become a zone of proxy conflict embroiling international powers including Turkey and Russia.
Turkey supports armed groups that oppose Mr Assad’s regime, which is in turn backed by Russia and Iran. It has tried to stop pro-government forces from launching a major offensive on the last rebel-ruled area of Syria, which is dominated by jihadist militants but crammed with about 3m civilians. The UN has long warned that another major offensive could create a humanitarian catastrophe greater than any yet seen in Syria’s bloody eight-year civil war.