Lawmakers brawl over Turkey's escalating presence in Syria

More than 50 Turkish soldiers have been killed in the last month during the battle for Idlib

A heated Turkish parliamentary session erupted into a brawl on Wednesday, as members of parliament threw punches and shoved each other during a fraught meeting over the country’s increasing role in the Syrian conflict.

The fight involved members of the ruling Justice and Development Party squaring off against the main opposition group, the Republican People’s Party, with over a dozen MPs pushing each other, yelling, and jumping on tables as tensions erupted over what role, if any, Turkey should have in Syria’s war.

The fighting was spurred by comments from opposition lawmaker Engin Ozkoc, who earlier in the day condemned president Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his involvement in Idlib, calling the Turkish leader "dishonourable, ignoble, low and treacherous." Mr Ozkoc delivered the remarks during a news conference, in which he called Turkey’s presence in Syria an illegal invasion and sharply criticized him for sending Turkish soldiers into a deadly war.

Tensions erupted when opposition member Mr Ozkoc took to the podium during the parliamentary session, angering members of the ruling party who demanded an investigation into his anti-government comments.

The disruption lasted roughly ten minutes before a recess was ordered to allow the individuals involved time to cool off.

On Sunday, Turkey announced the launch of a major new offensive against the regime of Syrian president Bashar Al Assad, which sees Ankara lending military support to the opposition forces fighting against regime troops in Idlib, the last rebel enclave in the country.

Turkey made the decision to escalate its role in the conflict after Syrian government airstrikes targeted a Turkish position near the border, killing 33 soldiers in a single day. Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said "this attack occurred even though the locations of our troops had been coordinated with Russian officials in the field.”

More than 50 Turkish troops have been killed in the last month, fueling political tensions.

A summit to discuss Syria is scheduled for Thursday between Turkish and Russian leaders, whose diplomatic relationship has been souring as the battle for Idlib strains their diplomatic limits.

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