Turkey Moves Tanks to Hilltops Overlooking Syria

Turkey’s government threatened to respond to any further attacks by Syrian forces, after shelling across the frontier last week killed five Turkish citizens.

“Turkey will retaliate if Syria violates its border again,” Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at a news conference today in Istanbul. “We will do what’s necessary. We hope Syria won’t repeat its previous violation of the border.”

Turkey yesterday deployed tanks and missile-defense systems on hilltops overlooking Syria, the state-run Anatolia news agency said, hours after Turkish jet fighters were scrambled to confront a Syrian helicopter that came close to the border. Turkey has threatened to target Syrian forces if they pose a security risk, following the downing of a Turkish fighter jet by Syria in June.

Turkey’s ties with Syria, once an ally, dramatically deteriorated over Turkish backing for Syrian rebels fighting forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey fired artillery in response to Syrian shelling that killed the five people in the Turkish border town of Akcakale on Oct. 3.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, of which Turkey is a member, on Oct. 9 called the attack on Akcakale “a flagrant breach of international law,” and assured the Turkish government of the alliance’s military support if it’s attacked.

Davutoglu spoke after holding talks with Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations and Arab League special envoy to Syria, and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in Istanbul. He didn’t comment on the discussions.

Rebels Advance

Rebel forces in Syria today captured the village of Azmarin in the province of Idlib, near the Turkish border, Anatolia reported. Syrian forces were also attacking the rebel-held village of Derkush in Idlib with tanks and ground forces, the state-run Turkish news agency said.

Turkey shelters 99,500 refugees in camps along the border, and another 14,000 Syrians are waiting to cross into the country, according to Turkey’s Foreign Ministry.

Syrian security forces killed 42 civilians today, the U.K.- based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in an e-mailed statement. At least 33 soldiers also died in fighting across the country, it said. Rebels lost three fighters when they attacked a military convoy in Idlib province, the Observatory said on its Facebook page.

Syrian forces “eliminated a large number of terrorists” in fighting in the northwestern commercial hub of Aleppo, the government-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported. The army also fought rebels who “cut off roads” in Idlib, killing and injuring some of them, the news service said.

Syrian rebels in Aleppo shot down a government MIG jet, the rebels’ Free Syrian Army said on its Facebook page. Footage was posted by rebels showing the wreckage of the aircraft on flames and armed men surrounding it and shouting God is great.

The Observatory for Human Rights in Syria confirmed the rebels’ claim and said the jet had bombed the town of Khan al-Asal in the suburbs of Aleppo.

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