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Syria apologizes for deadly shelling

Oct. 4, 2012 at 3:12 PM   |   Comments

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ANKARA, Turkey, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Syria has admitted a shelling from Syrian territory killed five civilians in Turkey and apologized for the incident, Turkey's deputy prime minister said.

Besir Atalay made the comment after the Turkish parliament voted Thursday to authorize operations against Syria in retaliation for the shelling Wednesday, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported. The motion authorizes military operations in Syria "when deemed necessary" for a year.

Atalay said in remarks televised by NTV news channel Syria assured Turkey "such an incident would not be repeated."

"This mandate is not a war mandate but it is in our hands to be used when need be in order to protect Turkey's own interests according to potential developments in the future," he said.

The action was taken as Turkey shelled targets in Syria for a second day, The New York Times reported. Artillery shells landed in the Syrian border town of Tel Abayad killing several Syrian soldiers, the Turkish dailies Today's Zaman and Hurriyet Daily News said.

The parliamentary vote was taken after a closed-door discussion, the Times said. Turkey began the shelling Wednesday after a mortar attack killed five Turkish civilians.

The Anatolian News Agency said the parliamentary motion put the issue as one of national security: "The ongoing crisis in Syria affects the stability and security in the region and now the escalating animosity affects our national security."

Turkey does not seek a war with Syria, Turkish media quoted Ibrahim Kalin, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, as saying on his Twitter account.

Erdogan signed a memorandum to Parliament overnight saying despite repeated warnings and diplomatic initiatives, the Syrian military continues its aggressive action.

"This situation has reached a level of creating a serious threat and risks to our national security. At this point the need has emerged to take the necessary measures to act promptly and swiftly against additional risks and threats," the memorandum said.

The vote followed an emergency NATO meeting in Brussels late Wednesday in which the intergovernmental military alliance demanded an immediate halt to Syria's "aggressive acts."

The alliance, of which Turkey is a member, called the Syrian mortar shell that landed across the Turkish border, killing five civilians and injuring at least 13 others, "a flagrant breach of international law and a clear and present danger to the security of one of [NATO's] allies.

"In the spirit of indivisibility of security and solidarity deriving from the Washington treaty [that established NATO in 1949], the alliance continues to stand by Turkey and demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an ally, and urges the Syrian regime to put an end to flagrant violations of international law."

The shell that set off the outrage struck a building in Akcakale, a town near a checkpoint along Turkey's 550-mile border with Syria, killing a woman, her three children and a relative. Officials said two of the 13 wounded people were in critical condition.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman George Little called the Syrian cross-border attack "yet another example of the depraved behavior of the Syrian regime, and why it must go."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was "outraged" by the mortar attack.

The cross-border attacks came the same day Syrian rebel forces targeted security forces in Aleppo with a series of bombings that left at least 43 people dead, witnesses and activists said.

SANA Thursday put the dead at 23 and said 122 civilians were injured.

More than 200 people were killed across Syria Wednesday, the opposition Local Coordination Committees said, including 67 people in Damascus and its suburbs.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights said an additional 11 people were killed Thursday, four in Homs, three each in Aleppo and Hama, and one in the Damascus area.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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