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Turkey Denounces Cross-Border Attack on Syrian Refugees

Workers walk between container houses on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern city of Kilis, Turkey, February 2012. (file photo)
Workers walk between container houses on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern city of Kilis, Turkey, February 2012. (file photo)
Dorian Jones

Ankara has reacted angrily to an incident Monday in which Syrians were shot while seeking refuge in Turkey, with the Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman warning that "necessary steps" will be taken if such incidents are repeated. The incident comes as Syrian forces intensify their crackdown on the opposition ahead of Tuesday's United Nations cease-fire deadline.

The Turkish government strongly condemned Monday's incident, accusing the Syrian military of firing on Syrian refugees after they crossed over into Turkey. The incident occurred at the Kilis refugee camp on the Syrian border. Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal says it was an unprovoked attack.

"Some Syrian civilians were trying to enter the Turkish border, [when] some of them were wounded and shots were fired at them. Two of those injured have died after entering Turkey. And two of the Syrian nationals who were inhabitants of the camp in Kilis were wounded. One police offer and a Turkish female translator working in the camp were also slightly injured," Unal said.

The Syrian charge d'affaires was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry to receive a formal complaint. Ankara is becoming increasingly alarmed over the deepening Syrian conflict and the growing numbers of Syrian refugees fleeing into Turkey. Observers expect Monday's shootings to add to that sense of alarm. Foreign Ministry spokesman Unal says Damascus has been warned there can be no repeat of such events.

"All the Syrian nationals or who've escaped from the persecution from Syria are under Turkey's full protection, and if these affairs are repeated, we will take necessary measures," Unal said.

Unal refused to say what those necessary measures might be. But Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned last month that if the crisis in Syria continues, his government is considering creating a safe haven in Syria for refugees from the conflict. Unal said that option remains on the table.

"No announcement has been released on that issue so far. That is one of the options we have been considering," Unal said.

Last week, Prime Minister Erdogan warned his country is prepared to take steps against Damascus if the current United Nations efforts to resolve the conflict fail. According to Turkish observers, that seems increasingly likely. Instead of winding down their operations in compliance with Tuesday's U.N. cease-fire deadline, Syrian security forces have escalated their crackdown. Damascus has also made last-minute demands for the Syrian rebels to lay down their weapons before Syrian security forces withdraw. The rebels have rejected that demand.

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