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Turkey Returns Fire After Syrian Shelling of Border Town

  • Dorian Jones

Smoke rises over the streets after an mortar bomb landed from Syria in the border village of Akcakale, southeastern Sanliurfa province, October 3, 2012.

Smoke rises over the streets after an mortar bomb landed from Syria in the border village of Akcakale, southeastern Sanliurfa province, October 3, 2012.

The Turkish military on Wednesday shelled targets in Syria after shelling from Syria hit a border village in Turkey, killing at least five people and wounding nine others.

The escalating tensions between the two neighbors prompted the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to convene an emergency meeting in Brussels late Wednesday at Turkey's request. NATO called on Syria to respect international law.

Late Wednesday, a mortar shell hit the Turkish town of Akcakale.

Ankara immediately blamed Syrian forces for the attack. A statement issued by the Turkish prime minister's office said Turkey's military had responded by shelling targets in Syria in response to what it called a "heinous attack." The statement said the response was within international law and rules of engagement.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned of a growing escalation in the Syrian conflict. From New York, he called on the Syrian government to "respect fully the territorial integrity of its neighbors as well as to end the violence against the Syrian people."

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the situation "very, very dangerous."

"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," said Clinton.

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 Ahmet 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 and 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.
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