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Turkey approves military action in Syria

After Syrian mortar shells killed five Turkish civilians on Wednesday, Turkey authorized cross-border military action against Syria.

Syria strikes turkey 10 04 2012Enlarge
Smoke rises after several Syrian shells crashed inside Akcakale town in Turkey, killing at least five people on Oct. 3, 2012, in Sanliurfa. Many others were wounded. The incident marks the third time shelling from the Syrian side transgressed Turkey's border, as fighting continues to rage between President Bashar al-Assad's government forces and the rebel Free Syrian Army. (Rauf Maltas/Anatolian News /AFP/Getty Images)

Turkey continued to assault Syrian targets on Thursday after a mortar attack on Wednesday killed five civilians in the Turkish town of Akcakale.

In a closed door session Turkey's Parliament approved in a 320-129 vote cross-border operations against neighboring Syria. It's not a formal declaration of war, but it does allow for direct military action for one year.

Citing local news sources, The New York Times said, "Turkish shells fell inside Syria on at least 10 occasions after midnight," somewhere near the town of Tel Abyad, killing Syrian government soldiers.

Nick Clegg, the UK's deputy prime minister, visiting Turkey on Wednesday, condemned Syria's mortar strike, saying it was a "totally illegitimate use of force by the Assad regime."

US Secretary of Defense Hillary Clinton said the US was "outraged" and "regretful of the loss of life on the Turkish side."

The Russian government said Damascus officials told it the shelling that killed Turkish civilians was accidental, according to Reuters.

The Hurriyet Daily News reports the Syrian government has claimed responsibility for the shelling. Turkey's deputy prime minister said: "The Syrian side has admitted what it did and apologized."

On Wednesday, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office justified its retaliation:

"Our armed forces on the border responded immediately to this atrocious attack within the rules of engagement, and points in Syria determined by radar were hit with artillery fire. Turkey, within the confines of the rules of engagement and international law, will never leave these types of provocations aimed at our national security unanswered."

CNN reports on the attacks:

Erdogan's aide, Ibrahim Kalin, said via Twitter: "Turkey has no interest in a war with Syria. But Turkey is capable of protecting its borders and will retaliate when necessary." 

Nihat Ali Ozcan, a strategy expert for the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, told The Times: “Turkey’s shelling into Syria late yesterday and the parliamentary motion drafted in emergency both aim at building pressure over Damascus.”

Syrian's bloody 18-month civil war between Bashar al-Assad's government forces and the rebel Free Syrian Army has, according to activists, killed around 30,000 people.

Turkey currently hosts more than 90,000 Syrian refugees. The UN refugee agency UNHRC estimates by the year's end there will be over 700,000 refugees in need of humanitarian assistance.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/121004/turkey-approves-military-action-syria