Russian Airstrike Kills 3 Turkish Soldiers in Syria in ‘Friendly Fire’
’s president, , apologized in a phone call to his Turkish counterpart, , calling the deaths a “tragic incident,” according to official accounts from their governments. One Turkish official called it “friendly fire.”
Both countries appeared eager to avoid derailing their new cooperation in Syria, where they have been seeking to lead a new effort to resolve the complex six-year-old conflict, even as they support combatants on opposite sides.
But the incident between , a NATO member, and Russia, ratcheted up an already risky situation in northern Syria. It came as Syrian rebels fighting alongside Turkish troops clashed in that same area for the first time with pro-government forces working with Russian air cover.
The government and rebel forces are closing in from different directions on Al Bab, an Islamic State-held city that is the last urban area occupied by the extremist group west of Raqqa, its de facto capital. Both the government and rebel sides view Al Bab as a strategically important prize.
Turkey and the Syrian rebels it supports want the city to be part of a rebel-held zone they have carved out along the Turkish border.