Turkey, Russia face off in Syria as fighting escalates

Foreign Desk Report

REYHANLI: Turkey shot down a Syrian government warplane on Tuesday over northwest Syria, where fighting has intensified in recent days, bringing Turkish and Russian forces close to direct conflict in the battle over the last swathe of Syria still held by rebels.
It was the third Syrian warplane Turkey has shot down since Sunday in an escalating campaign against President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. NATO-member Turkey supports the rebels, while Assad relies on his superpower ally Russia.
With more than a million refugees amassing since December on the Turkish border, the battle for Syria’s Idlib province has brought what the United Nations fears might be the worst humanitarian crisis of the nine-year-old Syrian civil war.
“This relief operation has been overwhelmed. There needs to be more of everything. The first thing is money,” U.N. Under-secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock told reporters at a trans-shipment point for supplies in southern Turkey. Fighting was raging north of the strategic crossroads town of Saraqeb, recaptured on Monday by Syrian troops, one of several times the town, which controls access to Idlib city and Aleppo, has changed hands in recent weeks.
Syrian state media said the army was now combing the town and had dealt heavy blows to fighters still holed up in hideouts on its outskirts. A state television correspondent said Turkey was firing artillery to halt the government advance.