Thursday 18 December 2014

Fears grow as Turkey keeps up shelling

BASSEM MROUE

Published 07/10/2012 | 05:00

Turkish artillery fired into Syria for the fourth day in a row yesterday, retaliating for mortar shells that landed in Turkish territory. Rebels clashed with Syrian government troops in the border area, activists said, as fears revived that the Syrian crisis could spiral into a regional conflict.

The latest shelling comes a day after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on Syria not to test Turkey's "limits and determination" and insisted that his country "was not bluffing" with its warnings.

Two mortar shells landed in rural areas near the village of Guvecci in the early morning and at midday. Both shells prompted Turkish return fire, Turkey's media reported.

The first exchange happened shortly after intense fighting broke out across the border in Syria's Idlib province between Syrian rebels and the forces of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, the private Dogan news agency reported.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels had attacked army positions in the Syrian villages of Khirbet al-Jouz and Darkoush about 16km from Guvecci. It said both sides were exchanging mortar fire.

The Observatory said rebels later took over Khirbet el-Jouz and were advancing toward army positions in nearby areas. It said dozens of soldiers were killed or wounded while three rebels died.

Relations between Turkey and Syria, once strong allies, deteriorated sharply after the uprising against Assad began in March last year. Turkey became one of the harshest critics of Assad's crackdown while Syria accused Ankara of aiding rebels.

Sunday Independent

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