Turkey retaliates after Syrian fire kills five civilians
Turkish forces fired retaliatory artillery soon after mortar rounds fired from inside Syria landed in a Turkish border town, killing five civilians and wounding others.
This marks the most serious cross-border shelling and a sharp escalation between the neighbours, former friends who have been growing increasingly hostile towards each other.
After Turkey fired back on Syrian targets, the two have now stepped closer towards open military confrontation.
Turkey, within rules of engagement and international laws, will never leave unanswered the provocations of the Syrian regime targeting Turkey’s national security, a statement released by the Turkish Prime Minister’s office said.
The Turkish government passed a Syrian cross-border motion at the Turkish Parliament today despite the opposition’s vote against it.
Meanwhile, Turkey demanded that the UN Security Council take action against the Syrian regime.
“This is an act of aggression by Syria against Turkey”, Turkey’s UN Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan said in a letter to the head of the rotating presidency of the 15-nation Security Council.
NATO convened for an urgent meeting last night, at Turkey’s request. The Ambassadors condemned the Syrian attack and demanded an immediate halt to “aggressive acts” against Turkey.
The shelling “constitutes a cause of greatest concern for, and is strongly condemned by, all allies” NATO ambassadors said in a statement. It said recent aggressive acts by Syria were a “clear and present danger to the security of one of (NATO’s) allies.”
The United States condemned Syria for the “depraved” shelling of a Turkish border town, and said it was closely following what is a “dangerous” situation.
According to the Interfax news agency, Russia told NATO and world powers they should not seek ways to intervene in the Syrian war or set up buffer zones between rebels and government forces, in a statement from Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov.
Syria has told Russia that a mortar attack was a “tragic accident” that will not be repeated, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying yesterday. RIA Novosti news agency said Lavrov urged Syria to acknowledge this in public.
Up until now, Turkey has refrained from engaging with Syria militarily, even after a Turkish jet was shot down while flying off the Syrian coast, and last week’s similar mortar incident.