Turkish State TV: Turkey Forces Syrian Plane to Land in Ankara

Posted October 10th, 2012 at 3:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Turkish state-run television says Turkey has forced a Syrian passenger plane to land in Ankara on suspicion that it was carrying weapons to Syria.

The station reported Wednesday that Turkish military jets intercepted the plane and that authorities are now inspecting its cargo in the capital.

The Syrian government has not commented on the report. The announcement comes after the head of Turkey's armed forces said the military will respond with greater force if shelling from Syria continues to spill across the border.

General Necdet Ozel gave the warning Wednesday during a visit to the Turkish border village of Akcakale, where cross-border shelling killed five people last week. Turkey responded with six days of retaliatory artillery fire into Syria.

At an Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Istanbul, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the Syrian government, saying its actions are “hurting the heart of humanity and the whole Islamic world.”

Mr. Erdogan said there are 99,000 Syrian refugees in his country now, and he expects more to cross into Turkey to flee the violence between Syrian government and rebel forces.

On the refugee issue, the U.S. military has sent 150 planners and specialists to Jordan to help with the surge from Syria.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the team also is working with Jordan to help it develop its own military operational capabilities in the event of, what he called, “any contingency in Syria.” U.S. officials describe possible developments as including a widening of the conflict and the potential that Syria will lose control of its chemical weapons.

Jordan is a U.S. ally, and Jordan's King Abdullah was the first Arab leader to call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down after the uprising against his rule began in March 2011.

The United Nations said earlier this month Jordan was hosting more than 100,000 Syrian refugees.