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Middle east

Turkey-Syria border conflict escalates

Latest update : 2012-10-09

Turkey fired on Syria for a sixth straight day on Monday after a shell landed in a Turkish border area, while the Syrian regime slammed the Turkish government for a "political and diplomatic gaffe" in denouncing President Bashar al-Assad.

Turkey's military Monday struck back at Syrian military positions after a shell fired by the neighbouring country landed in a Turkish border area, a Turkish official told AFP on Monday.

Turkey retaliated in kind after the Syrian shell landed in Altinozu district, in southeastern Hatay province, at around 1200 GMT, said the official speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Turkish military retaliates immediately after every single Syrian shell," said the official. "We have anti-aircraft batteries pounding Syrian targets."

Earlier, Hatay's governor said a total of six Syrian shells had hit the Turkish side of the border on Monday, without any casualties.

But it was not immediately clear if the governor's figures included the latest shelling.

Syria-Turkey border tensions

"All of them landed in rural areas," said Celalettin Lekesiz, in remarks carried by Anatolia, the state news agency.

The latest incident came on the sixth day of sporadic fire exchange between Turkey and Syria, which was inflamed after Wednesday's deadly shelling from Damascus.

‘Ottoman empire’

Meanwhile on Monday, Syria accused Turkey of having made a "political and diplomatic gaffe" with its suggestion on Saturday that Vice President Faruq al-Shara take over from the country's embattled President Bashar al-Assad.

"What (Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet) Davutoglu said amounts to a flagrant political and diplomatic gaffe," Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi said, quoted on state television.

"We're not in the days of the Ottoman Empire any more. I advise the Turkish government to give up (power) in favour of personalities who are acceptable to the Turkish people," he fired back.

Davutoglu said on Saturday that Shara was "a man of reason and conscience and he has not taken part in the massacres in Syria. Nobody knows the (Syrian) system better than he."

The Syrian opposition, which Turkey supports, "is inclined to accept Shara" in place of Assad, he said on the public television channel TRT.

Turkey, which hosts nearly 100,000 Syrian refugees on its territory, openly supports rebels from the Free Syrian Army and has openly called for Assad's ouster.

On Monday, Turkish President Abdullah Gul reiterated his appeal to the international community to act against the Assad regime, saying Turkey would continue to do everything necessary to protect its borders.

Speaking of “worst-case scenarios,” he said that his government and the military was in constant consultation and doing “whatever needed immediately”.

“There will be a change, a transition sooner or later ... It is a must for the international community to take effective action before Syria turns into a bigger wreck and further blood is shed, that is our main wish,” he told reporters in Ankara.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2012-10-08

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