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Turkey continues retaliatory shelling against Syria
Turkey on Thursday responded to a deadly cross-border mortar attack by launching further artillery strikes inside Syria, while demanding the UN Security Council take action against its neighbour for "flagrant violation of international law".
Turkey requested on Wednesday that the United Nations Security Council take “necessary action” against the Syrian government after a volley of Syrian shells killed five Turkish civilians and sparked retaliatory shelling from Ankara.
In the most serious cross-border escalation of the 18-month uprising in Syria, Turkey hit back after what it called "the last straw" when a mortar hit a residential neighbourhood of the southern border town of Akcakale.
In a letter to the president of the 15-nation Security Council, Turkish UN Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan called the firing of the mortar bomb "a flagrant violation of international law as well as a breach of international peace and security."
“I can tell you the Security Council is drafting a statement they are due to issue," said FRANCE 24 correspondent Nathan King at the UN. “They were going to issue it late last night but Russia wanted to hold off… we are seeing a slowdown even on a statement of condemnation.”
Russia, a staunch ally of Syria, has vetoed three UN resolutions condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.
“It’s not the first cross-border incident but it is the first incident in which Turkish nationals have actually died,” King added. “If this ratchets up it could become a threat to regional peace, and international peace and security is the Security Council’s mandate. So it will increase pressure about no-fly zones and protecting liberated areas.”
On Thursday, the French foreign ministry urged the Security Council to respond “quickly and firmly” in condemning Syria's mortar attack, calling it a threat to international security.
Turkey strikes back
Turkey responded to Wednesday`s attack by launching artillery strikes inside Syria on Wednesday and early Thursday, targeting the Tel Abyad district around ten kilometres inside the Syrian border, according to Turkish security sources. The mortar bomb fired from Syria is thought to have been fired from Tel Abyad.
"Our armed forces in the border region responded immediately to this abominable attack in line with their rules of engagement; targets were struck through artillery fire against places in Syria identified by radar," Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's office said in a statement.
"Turkey will never leave unanswered such kinds of provocation by the Syrian regime against our national security."
NATO said it stood by member-nation Turkey and urged Syria to put an end to "flagrant violations of international law." The Western military alliance held an urgent late night meeting in Brussels to discuss the matter.
Syrian soldiers killed
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said several Syrian soldiers were killed in the retaliatory bombardment by Turkey, but did not offer specific figures.
There were no initial reports of Syrian civilian deaths following the sharp escalation between Damascus and Ankara.
In June, Syria shot down a Turkish fighter jet and killed both its crewmen.
Turkey's parliament was due to vote on Thursday on extending a five-year-old authorisation for its military to carry out cross-border operations, an agreement originally intended to allow strikes on Kurdish militant bases in northern Iraq.
However, FRANCE 24 correspondent Jasper Mortimer in Ankara said such legislation was unlikely to lead to Turkish troop deployment in Syria. "Because of the lack of war mood in Turkey, I don't see such actions taking place," Mortimer said. "But the vote is meant to say to Syria 'if you push us, we'll go further."
(FRANCE 24 with wires)