Turkey scrambled its warplanes and warned that it will respond to any violation of its airspace as Syrian jets bombed a rebel-held town near the border for a third day. Israel also vowed to defend its borders.
Turkish soldiers were monitoring the fighting from newly dug foxholes in the town of Ceylanpinar as gunfire crackled across the border, NTV television showed today. Authorities used loudspeakers to warn residents to stay away as a Syrian jet dropped four bombs on the town of Ras al-Ayn, the state-run Anatolia news agency said. Several bullets hit houses, businesses and government buildings without causing casualties today, Anatolia said.
The attack came shortly after a Syrian helicopter hovered above Ras al-Ayn following shelling by artillery units earlier today, the agency said. Amateur video footage showed Syrians running in panic or weeping over dead bodies amid debris of demolished houses in Ras al-Ayn, Anatolia reported. Aerial bombardments have shattered the windows of shops and houses and prompted some Turks to abandon their homes. Schools in the area have been shut until Nov. 19.
President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have been trying to clear rebel forces from Ras al-Ayn in clashes that have killed or wounded dozens of people over the past week and reignited tensions with Turkey.
Busloads of rebel forces crossed from Turkey into Ras al-Ayn, Hurriyet newspaper said today, citing unidentified witnesses. Syria accuses Turkey of backing the rebels.
Turkey set up a field hospital in the courtyard of a primary school in Ceylanpinar as a precaution, authorities said. Giant red crescents were visible on top of the tent hospital against a white background -- a measure against aerial attacks.
Turkey’s army has been firing back after repeated shelling of Turkish soil by Syrian forces. Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz said today Turkey will give the “necessary response” to any airspace violation, Anatolia reported. Turkey has deployed anti-aircraft guns, tanks and missiles on the border, and Yilmaz said its forces there are “authorized to intervene immediately.”
Israel said it was also determined to defend its borders and its territory and that the Israeli position has been made clear to Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, according to a text message from his office. Israel has twice targeted Syrian guns that had launched mortar shells into Israeli-controlled territory of Golan Heights, and the army said it scored “direct hits.”
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today called for more pressure on Syria and announced $30 million in humanitarian aid to those affected by the 20-month uprising against Assad, which has killed more than 35,000 people, according to opposition groups.
Four million Syrians, including almost 2 million children and adolescents, may need humanitarian assistance by next year, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. About 408,000 refugees have fled Syria and the number is rising by 2,000 to 3,000 a day, it said. At least 1.2 million Syrians are now internally displaced.
Clinton, speaking in Perth, Australia, welcomed the formation of a new Syrian opposition coalition, announced on Nov. 11 after talks in Qatar. France yesterday became the first Western country to formally recognize the alliance, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces.
Fayssal Mekdad, Syria’s deputy foreign minister, lashed out at the opposition group, saying its members don’t want dialogue. “They want to destroy Syria,” Mekdad told Russian television, according to Syria’s state-run SANA news agency.