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6 Turkish troops, 13 Syrian soldiers killed in N Syria

Ankara: Turkey hit targets in northern Syria, responding to shelling by Syrian government forces that killed at least six Turkish soldiers, the Turkish president said Monday.

A Syrian war monitor said 13 Syrian troops were also killed. Also, Syrian activists said airstrikes in the country's northern, rebel-held region killed at least nine civilians on Monday.

The exchange between Ankara and Damascus came hours after a large Turkish military convoy entered the northwestern province of Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in Syria.

It is likely to further increase tensions between the two neighboring countries as such direct clashes have been rare and could also cause friction between Moscow and Ankara, which have sought to coordinate their actions in Syria.

Earlier, Turkey's National Defense Ministry said the Turkish forces were sent to Idlib as reinforcement and were attacked there despite prior notification of their coordinates to the local authorities.

It said Turkish forces responded to the attack, destroying targets. Four Turkish soldiers died at the scene while two others died later in hospital. Seven Turkish troops were wounded.

Speaking to reporters before departing for a visit to Ukraine, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkish artillery hit some 46 targets in Syria. Erdogan said Turkish warplanes were also involved and claimed that there were between 30 and 35 casualties on the Syrian side but offered no evidence.

Those who test Turkey's determination with such vile attacks will understand their mistake," Erdogan said. He said Russia was told that Ankara would not stand for any situation where we are prevented" from responding to Syrian assaults.

It is not possible for us to remain silent when our soldiers are being martyred," Erdogan said. The exchange occurred near the Syrian flashpoint town of Saraqeb, according to the the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitoring

group.

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