Turkey launched a massive operation in Syria targeting government troops after the recent attack on Turkish troops last week left at least 34 Turkish soldiers dead, the country’s defense chief said on Sunday.

“Operation Spring Shield, which was launched following the heinous attack (on Turkish soldiers) on Feb. 27 is successfully being carried out,” Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said of this new operation.

Akar claimed that the Turkish forces had taken out a drone, eight helicopters, 103 tanks, 19 armored personnel carriers, 72 cannons/howitzers/multiple rocket launchers, three air-defense systems, 15 anti-tanks/mortars, 56 armored vehicles, and nine ammunition depots. He added that 1,212 regime soldiers and elements “have been neutralized” thus far. There hasn’t been any confirmation of those numbers yet. 

Akar made it clear that Turkey’s only target during the operation would be regime soldiers and elements in Idlib under Turkey’s right to self-defense. The Turks are not targeting Russian forces and President Erdogan has urged Russian President Putin not to interfere with the ongoing operations and to respect the Sochi agreement signed in September of 2018, which was supposed to prevent any acts of aggression in Idlib.

The state-run Turkish Anadolu news agency claimed that Turkey shot down “a regime plane” over Idlib on Sunday. However, the official Syrian news agency, Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) denies this, stating that it was a “Turkish regime drone” that had been downed over the town of Saraqeb in Idlib. Several hours later, SANA said that Turkish forces “targeted” two Syrian aircraft in the region, but the pilots used parachutes and “landed safely.” Those aircraft are believed to be SU-24 Fencer Long-Range strike aircraft.

Shortly after this, the Syrian military announced: “the closure of the airspace for aircraft flights and any planes traveling over the northwestern region of Syria, especially over [the] Idlib governorate.” 

A military source told SANA that “any aircraft that violates our airspace will be treated as a hostile flight that must be shot down and prevented from achieving its objectives.”

This spike in violence comes contrary to the September 2018 Sochi agreement whereby Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Idlib into a de-escalation zone, in which acts of aggression would expressly be prohibited.