Updated Mar 1, 2020 - World

Turkey and Syria clash in Idlib as refugees head for Greece

Smoke billowing over the village of Qmenas on March 1 following a Russian airstrike. Photo: Ibrahim Yasouf/AFP via Getty Images

Syrian state media said on Sunday that Turkish forces downed two of its warplanes over Idlib, after Syria destroyed a Turkish drone and announced it was closing its airspace over the northwest region, AP reports.

Why it matters: Tensions are continuing to escalate between NATO ally Turkey and the Syrian regime, which is backed by Russia and has been conducting a deadly offensive in the last rebel-held areas of Idlib.

  • The result thus far has been the darkest chapter of Syria’s brutal nine-year civil war, with a massive humanitarian crisis threatening to collide with a dangerous geopolitical showdown.

The big picture: With hundreds of thousands of desperate Syrian refugees fleeing toward the Turkish border, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced on Saturday he would open Turkey's border with Europe — claiming that his country cannot sustain more than the 3.6 million Syrian refugees it already hosts.

  • At least 13,000 refugees had amassed on Turkey's border with Greece on Sunday, according to the UN.
  • “Europe and others must take robust action to address this monumental challenge," a Turkish spokesman told AP. "We can’t be expected to do this on our own.”
  • Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis tweeted Sunday that the country will not accept asylum applications for one month, and that it will invoke a special provision in a key EU treaty to "ensure full European support."

Go deeper: Syria's darkest chapter

Editor's note: This story has been updated with news that Greece will turn away asylum seekers.

Go deeper

Turkey and Russia agree to ceasefire in Idlib

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced in a press conference Thursday that the two countries had agreed to a ceasefire in the northwestern Syrian region of Idlib.

Why it matters: A brutal offensive by Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and his Russian patrons has forced more than 1 million civilians to flee toward the Turkish border, infuriating Erdogan and bringing Turkey to the brink of direct military conflict with Russia. The ceasefire, which is set to go into effect at midnight, is aimed at cooling geopolitical tensions and halting what is already a massive humanitarian crisis.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Mar 5, 2020 - World

Syria's migrant crisis collides with geopolitics

Heading toward Greece, in Edirne, Turkey. Photo: Osman Orsal/Getty Images

There is war on Turkey’s border with Syria and chaos on its borders with Europe.

Driving the news: Turkey launched an offensive against Syrian government troops after at least 36 of its soldiers were killed in an airstrike last Thursday. It shot down two Syrian aircraft and claims to have killed hundreds of Syrian forces.

Go deeperArrowMar 3, 2020 - World

Syria reports first coronavirus case

Members of the Syrian Civil Defence prepare their sterilisation equipment before sterilising a hospital in Idlib, March 22. Photo: Oman Haj Kadour/AFP via Getty Images

Syria reported its first case of the novel coronavirus on Sunday, according to state media.

Why it matters: The actual number of cases in Syria is likely far higher, especially considering its proximity to Iran — the site of one of the worst outbreaks in the world. Syria faces unique challenges in attempting to curb the spread of the virus, with the country having been ravaged by a civil war for the past nine years.

Go deeperArrowMar 22, 2020 - World