May 22, 2013
Turkey strikes back at Syria, says will protect borders
Turkey stepped up retaliatory artillery strikes on a Syrian border town, killing several Syrian soldiers, while its parliament debated authorizing further military action in the event of another spillover of the Syrian conflict.
Syria's staunch ally Russia said it had received assurances from Damascus that the mortar strike had been a tragic accident and would not happen again and Syria's Information Minister conveyed his condolences to the Turkish people.
But Turkey's government said "aggressive action" against its territory by Syria's military had become a serious threat to its national security and sought parliamentary approval for the deployment of Turkish troops beyond its borders.
"Turkey has no interest in a war with Syria. But Turkey is capable of protecting its borders and will retaliate when necessary," Ibrahim Kalin, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, said on his Twitter account.
"Political, diplomatic initiatives will continue," he said.
In the most serious cross-border escalation of the 18-month uprising in Syria, Turkey hit back after what it called "the last straw" when the mortar hit Akcakale, killing a mother, her three children and a female relative.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said several Syrian soldiers were killed in the Turkish bombardment of a military post near the Syrian town of Tel Abyad, a few miles across the frontier from Akcakale. It did not say how many soldiers died.
"We know that they have suffered losses," a Turkish security source told Reuters, without giving further details.
The observatory also reported clashes between Syrian rebels and the Syrian army at the military post, and said the rebels had killed 21 elite Republican Guards on Thursday in an ambush on an army minibus in a suburb northwest of Damascus.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used force of arms to try to crush a peaceful pro-democracy movement when it erupted in March 2011.
He now faces a full-scale armed revolt that has brought rebels into the suburbs of Damascus and shows signs of becoming a sectarian conflict that could destabilize neighboring states including Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon.