Syrian army shells rebel area, Turkish observation post despite truce move

The Syrian army and its allies shelled rebel-held areas of northwest Syria early on Thursday and attacked a Turkish observation post, Ankara and a monitoring group said, despite Russia saying it and Turkey had brokered a new ceasefire.

Adds attack on Turkish forces, amends dateline

BEIRUT/ISTANBUL, June 13 (Reuters) - The Syrian army and its allies shelled rebel-held areas of northwest Syria early on Thursday and attacked a Turkish observation post, Ankara and a monitoring group said, despite Russia saying it and Turkey had brokered a new ceasefire.

Turkey's Defence Ministry said Syrian government forces carried out what it assessed to be a deliberate attack, firing 35 mortar shells at one of its observation posts in the de-escalation zone in Idlib, wounding three Turkish soldiers and damaging equipment and facilities.

Ankara has made representations to Moscow about the incident, the defence ministry said. It did not say when exactly the attack happened.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said air strikes on rebel-held areas paused overnight, but resumed on Thursday morning. They targeted the area around Khan Sheikhoun, an opposition-held town in southern Idlib province, it said, adding that the insurgents had also fired artillery at government forces.

On Wednesday, the Russian military said that Moscow and Ankara had agreed a full ceasefire in the northwest, centred on Idlib, but it did not say how long the truce would last.

The Syrian government launched its offensive against northwest Syria, the last major stronghold of the rebellion against it, in late April.

Russia is Damascus's main ally in the civil war between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebels seeking to oust him, using its warplanes to bombard opposition areas. Turkey backs some insurgent groups.

Moscow and Ankara had agreed a partial truce last September that called for an end to bombardment of the area and for Ankara to pull heavy weapons and jihadist groups from frontline areas.

The fighting has caused hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom had already been displaced, to flee further north and seek shelter along the Turkish border.

Turkey has pushed Russia to rein in the government's offensive while Russia has said Turkey must curb the jihadist groups that dominate in Idlib.

(Reporting By Angus McDowall, Daren Butler and Humeyra Pamuk Editing by John Stonestreet)

((angus.mcdowall@thomsonreuters.com; Reuters Messaging: angus.mcdowall.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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