Turkey ups Syria strikes as military action authorised



AKCAKALE, Turkey- Turkey hit back with artillery strikes on Syrian targets and lawmakers authorised further military action Thursday, though Ankara insisted it was not a war mandate after deadly cross-border fire.
Turkey said Syria had apologised for the shelling that killed five Turkish nationals on Wednesday in the border town of Akcakale, and had pledged that such an incident, which sent tensions soaring, would not happen again.



Turkey ups Syria strikes as military action authorised
Turkey's parliament met behind closed doors to approve military action, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan later said there was no intention of going to war with Syria, though his nation's borders and citizens will be defended.
"No country should dare test our determination on that," Erdogan said, while observers said several Syrian troops died in Thursday's retaliatory action.
The UN Security Council condemned Syria "in the strongest terms" for its deadly shelling of Turkey and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged "maximum restraint."
Western powers issued similar appeals as did Syria's allies, China and Iran.
The United States said Turkey had taken "appropriate" and "proportional" action in firing back at Syria, but urged calm.
Turkey's strikes were "designed to strengthen the deterrent effect, so that these kinds of things don't happen again, and it was proportional," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
In Ankara, parliament's emergency morning session agreed to the government's request to authorise military operations inside Syria, with a year-long mandate receiving 320 votes in the 550-seat chamber.
"A need has emerged to take necessary measures and to act in haste and in time in the face of additional risks and threats that may be directed against our country," the cabinet motion stated.
Syrian forces had since September 20 mounted "aggressive actions" on Turkish soil despite numerous warnings and diplomatic initiatives, it added.
Security sources told AFP that Turkish shelling was sporadic throughout the night until 0600 GMT Thursday.
But the shelling could resume if necessary, a Turkish official warned.
The action taken was similar to bombing raids that Turkey's army regularly carries out against suspected Kurdish rebel bases in neighbouring Iraq.
Close Damascus ally Russia said Syria had acknowledged the deadly shelling was "a tragic accident."
But a thousand mostly left-wing peace protesters gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square, chanting slogans against the government for the mandate, which they branded a tool for "an imperialist war" against Syria.
-- Damascus probes shelling --
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"The Syrian regime is playing a dangerous game," said Riad Kahwaji, who heads the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, suggesting that the flare-up could tip events in favour of the rebels fighting to bring down President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
"Turkey can considerably change the balance of power in favour of the rebels, even (if) it doesn't deploy troops into Syria."
Ankara was infuriated by the attack in which a mother and her three children were among the five civilians killed, when a shell smashed through a wall and landed in a courtyard where they had come to prepare their evening meal.
The shell blasts marked the first time that Turkish citizens had been killed by Syrian fire since the uprising against Assad's regime began in March 2011.
Several Syrian soldiers were killed in the Turkish riposte, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog said, without giving exact figures.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington was "outraged" at the Syrian shelling, while France said it constituted "a serious threat to global security and peace."
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the incident was "completely unacceptable, not only for Turkey but for the international community as a whole".
Amid the rising tensions, calls for restraint poured in.
The European Union condemned Syria but urged calm from all sides, while Germany voiced hope for a "de-escalation" of the "worsening" situation.
Inside Syria, the army shelled several areas of Aleppo, the country's second city that has been a focal point of the conflict since mid-July, when loyalist forces promised the "mother of all battles" to clear the city of rebels.
In Damascus province, clashes between the army and rebels left at least 21 members of Syria's elite Republican Guards unit dead, the Syrian Observatory said.
More than 31,000 people have been killed since the revolt against Assad's regime began nearly 19 months ago.
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Friday, October 5th 2012
AFP
           


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