Turkey fired artillery back at Syria on Monday after a mortar round landed on its territory, the sixth straight day that the two countries have traded fire across borders, the Turkish state news agency reported.
The strikes began last week after five people were killed in an attack on a Turkish border town. Officials in Turkey said the bombardment was a Syrian military shelling and that all the victims were women and children. The Turks have retaliated in the days since as attacks on their territory have continued.
The Monday shelling of the countryside south of Hacipasa hamlet reportedly caused no casualties. Turkish forces nonetheless fired back immediately, state media reported. President Abdullah Gul said Monday that “the worst case scenario” was unfolding in Syria, urging the international community to act.
Last week, the Turkish parliament authorized the government to send troops outside the country's borders, but officials have played down the move as a deterrent, not a step toward war. The string of strikes have nonetheless ramped up fears that the Syrian conflict could spread into a broader war in the tumultuous region, with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calling the situation “extremely dangerous” on Monday.
“We are not interested in war whatsoever, but then again we are also not far from war,” Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Sunday.
While the hostilities continue, the two countries have also continued to trade barbs in the media. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu floated the idea of the Syrian vice president taking over an interim government if President Bashar Assad steps down, offering up the idea in an interview with Turkish public television on Sunday. The vice president, Davutoglu said, had no blood on his hands.
Such words “reflect obvious political and diplomatic confusion and blundering,” Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoubi told Syrian state media, arguing that it wasn’t up to Turkey to name leaders for Damascus, Cairo or Jerusalem. “Turkey isn’t the Ottoman Sultanate,” he said.
The Syrian government denied rumors earlier this year that Vice President Farouk Shara had defected and fled to Jordan; he appeared in public in Syria afterward, quieting talk of him having fled.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Turkish military station at the border gate with Syria in Akcakale, across from the rebel-controlled Syrian town of Tel Abyad town, on Sunday. Credit: Associated Press