Turkey-backed Syrian rebels have downed a helicopter belonging to the Syrian government on February 11 in Idlib's Saraqib. According to international media reports, the chopper was shot by a ground-to-air missile fired by the militants. The development in existing tensions between Turkey and Syria came a day after the Turkish defence ministry announced that its forces had struck 115 targets of the Syrian government and destroyed 101 out of them.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had also said on February 11 that the Syrian government 'would pay a high price'. On February 10, five Turkish soldiers were killed by the Syrian Army promising a harsh retaliation. Furthermore, a Turkish official told an international agency that the forces loyal to the Syrian government had fired near Turkey's observation posts in Idlib. Media reports also state that the pilots from the downed chopper have managed to escape, however, their status on the ground remains unknown.
Alınan son bilgilere göre; İdlib bölgesindeki An Nayrab’dan rejim unsurlarının çıktığı ve Rejime ait 1 helikopterin düştüğü öğrenilmiştir.— T.C. Millî Savunma Bakanlığı (@tcsavunma) February 11, 2020
The tensions in Northern Syria have started escalating since last week when the shelling by Syrian government forces killed eight Turkish nationals on its observation posts in Idlib. That attack was reportedly followed by Turkish attack on Syria which according to Erdogan killed 76 Syrian officials. It was few days after the attacks that the Turkish army reportedly started deploying in the disputed region as convoys of at least 150 trucks with Turkey's special forces were spotted at the Turkey-Syria border.
The Syrian government has also seized control of a highway in northwest Syria reportedly for the first time since 2012. It is the M5 highway which is also the main road between Aleppo and the capital Damascus and runs through Deraa in Northern Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights based on British-based war monitor said that the Syrian government forces have captured the entire road.
Turkey supports the Syrian rebels, while Russia backs the forces of the Syrian government to recapture the area which is also the last-rebel stronghold in Syria. Furthermore, according to an official of the United Nations, the increase in violence since December 1 has caused displacement of nearly 700,000 people up from 600,000. The UN regional spokesperson reportedly said that it was 'largest' number of people displaced in a single period of time since the crisis began nearly nine years ago.