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A convoy of Turkish military vehicles passes through Maaret al-Numan in Syria's northern province of Idlib reportedly heading toward the town of Khan Sheikhun in the southern countryside of the province, on August 19, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Ankara: Turkey said yesterday that air strikes have targeted a Turkish military convoy in Syria, killing at least three civilians. There was no immediate word on any Turkish casualties in the attack.

The Defense Ministry says 12 other civilians were wounded in the strikes, which took place as the Turkish convoy was heading toward a Turkish observation post in the Syrian rebel-held stronghold of Idlib.

The ministry didn’t provide other details but “strongly condemned” the air strikes, adding they were contrary to “existing agreements as well as our cooperation and dialogue with Russia.”

It called for “urgent measures” to prevent a repeat of the incident.

It wasn’t immediately clear whther Syrian or Russian warplanes were behind the strikes.

Turkey has 12 observation posts in and on the edge of Idlib as part of an agreement reached with Russia.

Syrian activists said the strikes halted the convoy carrying ammunition after it crossed into northern Syria earlier in the day, bound for a rebel-held stronghold.

Damascus yesterday condemned the deployment of a Turkish military convoy towards a key town in northwestern Syria where regime forces have fought fierce battles with militants and rebels.

“Turkish vehicles loaded with munitions... are heading towards Khan Shaikhun to help the terrorists... which confirms once again the support provided by the Turkish regime to terrorist groups,” a foreign ministry source quoted by the state news agency SANA said.

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Government strikes in Khan Sheikhoun. Image Credit: AFP

Pro-regime forces are deployed around three kilometres from the road and have been advancing over the past few days in a bid to encircle Khan Sheikhun from the north and the west and seize the highway.

On Sunday they retook they village of Tel al-Nar and nearby farmland northwest of Khan Sheikhun “and were moving close to the highway,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

But their advance from the east was being slowed down due to “a ferocious resistance” from militants and allied rebels.

Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) controls most of Idlib province as well as parts of the neighbouring provinces of Hama, Aleppo and Latakia.

A buffer zone deal brokered by Russia and Turkey last year was supposed to protect the Idlib region’s three million inhabitants from an all-out regime offensive, but it was never fully implemented.

Regime and Russian air strikes and shelling since late April have killed more than 860 civilians, according to the Observatory, which relies on sources inside Syria for its information.

More than 1,370 insurgents and over 1,200 pro-regime forces have also been killed since then, according to the monitor.

The violence has displaced more than 400,000 people, the United Nations says.

“Many of these people have been displaced up to five times,” the UN’s regional spokesman for the Syria crisis, David Swanson, told AFP on Saturday.

Syria’s conflict has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions at home and abroad since starting with the brutal repression of anti-regime protests in 2011.