Tensions high as Syrian shell kills five in Turkish town
TENSIONS had escalated to breaking point last night over a volatile border between Syria and Turkey after deadly shelling that hit a Turkish border town left at least five civilians dead and another dozen wounded.
The mortar bomb fired from Syria that struck the Turkish town of Akcakale yesterday is believed to have come from Syrian government forces fighting rebels backed by Turkey, which has called for the ousting of Syrian president Bashar Assad.
Turkish artillery responded to the attack by firing on Syrian targets, prompting Britain’s UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant to label the situation as “very worrying.”
The border in dispute has been crossed by tens of thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing violence in their country.
In a terse statement, the office of Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, condemned the Syrian shelling that killed a woman, her three children and her friend.
“Our armed forces at the border region responded to this atrocious attack with artillery fire on points in Syria that were detected with radar, in line with the rules of engagement,” the Turkish statement said.
“Turkey, acting within the rules of engagement and international laws, will never leave unreciprocated such provocations by the Syrian regime against our national security.”
Turkey’s NTV television said Turkish radar pinpointed the positions from where the shells were fired on Akcakale and subsequently hit those positions.
Turkish deputy prime minister Bulent Arinc said: “I hope this is Syria’s last craziness. Syria will be called into account.”
Turkey, a Nato ally, has been pushing for international intervention in the form of a safe zone, which would likely entail foreign security forces on the ground and a partial no-fly zone.
Nato last night demanded an immediate halt to “aggressive acts” against alliance member Turkey after the deadly mortar strike.
In a statement, Nato ambassadors said: “The alliance continues to stand by Turkey and demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an ally, and urges the Syrian regime to put an end to flagrant violations of international law.”
The declaration was issued following a rare late-night Nato meeting held in Belgium at Turkey’s request to discuss the cross-border incident.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton also offered assurances of Washington’s support at the United Nations and Nato in a phone call to Turkish toreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said: “We stand with our Turkish ally and are continuing to consult closely on the path forward.”
Syria said it was investigating the source of the mortar bomb and urged restraint after Turkey’s military response.
Information minister Omran Zoabi offered his condolences to the Turkish people on behalf of Syria, saying his country respected the sovereignty of neighbouring countries. He called on other countries to respect Syria’s sovereignty.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
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