The Syrian government has told its military to keep aircraft at least six miles (10 kilometers) from Turkey’s borders after a deadly shelling incident left five Turks dead, according to the Turkish news website Today’s Zaman.
The news site cited Turkey’s ntvmsnbc.com, which quoted “reliable sources” yesterday as saying that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has ordered its warplanes and helicopters to honor the buffer. Neither Turkey’s government nor Syrian officials confirmed the report.
Tensions have escalated since initial Syrian shelling Oct. 2 left two Turkish women and three children dead. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Syria yesterday not to test Turkey’s patience, as Turkish troops fired at Syrian targets for the second day and another Syrian mortar round hit Turkish territory. Turkish shells already have killed 14 Syrian soldiers.
The clashes are the most direct confrontation between the neighbors to date, underscoring the risk that Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, could be drawn into Syria’s civil war. Turkey has positioned extra troops near its border since June, when Syrian forces downed a Turkish plane.
Turkey’s parliament voted Oct. 4 to allow cross-border military operations. The government in Ankara also has thrown its support behind the Syrian rebels, letting them use bases inside Turkey and providing training to political activists.
The United Nations Security Council has condemned the Syrian shelling “in the strongest terms” and called on both sides to show restraint.
“This incident highlighted the grave impact the crisis in Syria has on the security of its neighbors and on regional peace and security,” according to a statement released Oct. 4. The council “demanded that such violations of international law stop immediately and are not repeated.”
International efforts have failed so far to stop the conflict, which has entered its 19th month and claimed more than 30,000 lives, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Syria’s military turned on a second major city yesterday, battering the rebel stronghold of Homs with artillery. Photos of Homs show charred and smoking buildings in a devastated landscape. The regime has also been using artillery to pummel Aleppo, the country’s largest city, according to reports by Western journalists.
Syrian troops killed 101 people across the country yesterday, including 28 in or around the capital Damascus, the opposition Local Coordination Committees said in an e-mailed statement that couldn’t be independently verified.
Reflecting an increasingly sophisticated level of weaponry and training, Syrian rebels downed a Russian-made MiG fighter jet over the city of Deir Ezzour yesterday, Local Coordination Committees said in an e-mailed statement.
While that claim also couldn’t be independently verified, footage on al-Jazeera television showed a MiG warplane on fire while falling over the city. Activists told al-Jazeera that the pilot of the MiG was captured and was being interrogated by rebels.
Rebels also shot down a military helicopter over the Damascus suburb of al-Ghota al-Sharqiya yesterday, the Observatory for Human Rights in Syria said in an e-mailed statement. The fate of the four-man crew is unknown, the London-based group said. Footage on Al-Arabiya television showed the chopper falling and exploding when it hit the ground.