Turkey will respond heavily if its observation posts in northwestern Syria’s Idlib province are targeted, said the nation’s president on Wednesday.

“Turkey will do more than mere retaliation if its observation posts in Idlib are targeted,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party deputies meeting in the capital Ankara.

Turkey launched Operation Spring Shield on Feb. 27 in the region after at least 34 Turkish soldiers were martyred in an Assad regime airstrike in Idlib, and after repeated violations of previous cease-fires.

Under a 2018 deal with Russia, the Turkish troops were in Idlib to protect civilians from attacks by the regime and terrorist groups.

Erdogan said last week’s cease-fire in Idlib was achieved following Turkey’s military campaign there, giving Idlib residents the opportunity to live free of threats, adding that Turkey is closely watching developments on the ground.

“We are closely monitoring the deployment of the Assad regime and allied militants near the cease-fire lines,” he said, stressing that Turkey will abide by the cease-fire deal so long as the Assad regime and its allies do the same.

Under the cease-fire deal in Idlib, located just south of the Turkish border, all military activities are to end there, along with the establishment of a security corridor 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) to the north and south of the key M4 highway.

Joint Turkish-Russian patrols will also begin on March 15 along the highway from the settlement of Trumba – 2 km (1.2 miles) to the west of Saraqib – to the settlement of Ain al-Havr, under the deal.

Erdogan also spoke on recent developments concerning coronavirus in Turkey, which confirmed its very first case early Wednesday.

"Hopefully, Turkey will come out of this without any casualties. This is our wish. No virus is stronger than our measures," said Erdogan.

Erdogan also urged the public to carefully maintain personal hygiene to stem a possible outbreak in the country.