Turkey Renews Syria Strikes After Deadly Cross-Border Shelling

Posted October 4th, 2012 at 2:40 am (UTC-5)
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Turkish officials say the military has launched another round of artillery strikes across the border into Syria in response to a Syrian mortar attack Wednesday that killed five Turkish civilians.

The officials said the shelling Thursday targeted the same area Turkish forces identified a day earlier as the source of the Syrian mortars, which landed in a residential area in Akcakale.

Turkey said it responded immediately to the cross-border attack, striking targets Wednesday near the Syrian border town of Tel Abyad. Turkish officials and the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say the strikes killed Syrian soldiers, but did not specify how many.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara acted within international law and will never fail to retaliate for what he called Syrian provocations against Turkey's national security.

Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi said Damascus is investigating the origin of the mortar fire, and that Syria offers its condolences to the Turkish people.

He also called on neighboring states to control their borders with Syria to prevent “terrorists” from crossing into Syrian territory. Syria uses the term “terrorists” to describe rebels fighting an 18-month uprising against autocratic Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington is “outraged” at the Syrian mortar strike on Turkey, a fellow member of the NATO alliance.

Turkey sent the U.N. Security Council a letter calling for “necessary action” to stop “aggression” by Syria. U.N. diplomats said the Council was discussing a possible statement in reaction to cross-border attacks.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Syria to respect the territorial sovereignty of its neighbors. He said the escalation shows how the Syrian conflict is increasingly harming neighboring states.

The U.S. Defense Department said the Akcakale incident is another example of what it called the “depraved behavior of the Syrian regime.” It said the United States stands by Turkey as a “strong ally.”

NATO ambassadors held an urgent meeting in Brussels Wednesday at Turkey's request, and issued a statement demanding the “immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an ally.” NATO also urged the Syrian government to “end flagrant violations of international law.”

Earlier Wednesday, four bombs struck a government-controlled section of Syria's largest city, Aleppo, killing dozens of people and wounding nearly 100 others.

The blasts damaged a military officers' club and a nearby hotel that residents said housed pro-government militiamen. Opposition groups said at least 48 people were killed, mostly from the security services, while Syrian state media put the death toll at 31. There was no independent confirmation of casualties.

Aleppo has seen increased fighting between government and rebel forces in recent weeks, but neither side appears to have made significant gains. The city is divided between Mr. Assad's forces mainly in the west and rebels in the east.