Syrian Government Forces Advance on Idlib, Surround Turkish Troops

Ankara denies any Turkish troops are besieged in the former rebel stronghold

The Associated Press
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A member of the Syrian regime forces looks at a Turkish observation post in the town of Morek, Hama, August 24, 2019. Credit: AFP
The Associated Press

A heavily fortified Turkish observation post in the northwestern village of Morek was surrounded on all sides by Syrian troops who had captured wide swathes of land from insurgents over the past three weeks.

Syrian authorities took a group of journalists Saturday to tour several newly captured villages as well as the town of Khan Sheikhoun that was a major rebel stronghold until it was taken by government forces earlier this week.

A Syrian officer in Morek told The Associated Press that Turkish troops as well as some opposition fighters and their families are inside the sprawling post that is surrounded by blast walls.

>> Read more: As U.S. and Turkey argue over Idlib, Syria's wild south reawakens | Analysis ■ Syrian crisis: Russia, Turkey and Assad do battle in Idlib with millions of lives hanging in the balance | Explained 

The journalists were kept about 2 kilometers (1.2 mile) away from the Turkish post.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had denied any Turkish troops were besieged in Syria.

Since a deal with Russia last year, Turkey has maintained 12 observation posts in and around Idlib province. Turkey is a strong backer of the Syrian opposition and rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad's forces, while Russia supports Assad's government.