The Battle for Syria
|Back to Page One|
|Bernard Banks||October 3rd 2012|
From VOA and agencies
|Turkish Tanks on the Move|
Turkey says its armed forces have fired on targets inside Syria in retaliation for a Syrian mortar attack that killed five Turkish civilians in a Turkish border town. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office said Turkish forces in the border region immediately shelled Syrian targets spotted by radar Wednesday, in response to what it called a "heinous" attack on the Turkish town of Akcakale. Official Turkish sources confirmed a mobilization of its forces at the border.
“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,” it said. Turkey’s NTV television said Turkish radar had pinpointed the positions from which the shells were fired on Akcakale, and that those positions were hit.
According to Mahir Zeynalov, a journalist with the Turkish paper Today’s Zaman, Turkey was deploying a “huge number of tanks, artillery and missile batteries to the Syria border. Akcakale mayor Abdulhakim Ayhan told CNN Turk television that a Syrian mortar struck a house in the community earlier Wednesday. He said a woman and a child were among the dead. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu protested the Syrian attack to the NATO alliance, of which Ankara is a member, and to the United Nations.
A NATO official said that alliance ambassadors were meeting in emergency session Wednesday to discuss the situation. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon responded to the cross-border fighting by urging Syria to respect the territorial sovereignty of its neighbors. He said the escalation shows how the Syrian conflict is increasingly harming neighboring states. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington is "outraged" at the Syrian mortar strike on Turkey, a fellow NATO alliance member. Speaking Wednesday, she expressed regret at the loss of Turkish lives and said she would speak to Davutoglu, her Turkish counterpart, to discuss next steps.
Clinton called the situation "very, very dangerous," adding, "We are outraged that the Syrians have been shooting across the border. We are very regretful about the loss of life on the Turkish side." Clinton said "all responsible nations need to band together" to persuade the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "to have a cease-fire, quit assaulting their own people and begin the process of a political transition.'' Turkey is stepping up its diplomatic efforts for international support. Foreign Minister Davutoglu spoke by telephone with Secretary-General Ban and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Ankara has been pressing for international intervention in Syria, since the shoot down in June of a Turkish warplane by Syrian forces. NATO has resisted such calls, but following this latest Syrian attack, analysts say Ankara will likely increase its pressure on the alliance to take action. NATO later issued a statement condemning the attack. NATO said "the alliance continues to stand by Turkey and demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an ally." NATO also called on "the Syrian regime to put an end to flagrant violations of international law."
With fighting intensifying in Syria nd moving closer to Turkey’s border, instances of violence across the border into Turkey have increased. Ankara repeatedly has stressed that it will act within international law and not intervene unilaterally in Syria.