Turkey warns Syria more strikes would be fatal mistake

Fri Oct 5, 2012 4:39pm EDT
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By Ece Toksabay

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey's prime minister said on Friday his country did not want war but warned Syria not to make a "fatal mistake" by testing its resolve, and its army retaliated for a third day running after more mortar rounds from Syria landed on its soil.

In a belligerent speech to a crowd in Istanbul, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that Turkey would not shy away from war if provoked.

The speech followed a Syrian mortar barrage on a town in southeast Turkey that killed five people on Wednesday.

Turkish artillery bombarded Syrian military targets on Wednesday and Thursday in response, killing several Syrian soldiers, and the Turkish parliament authorized cross-border military action in the event of further aggression.

"We are not interested in war, but we're not far from war either. This nation has come to where it is today having gone through intercontinental wars," Erdogan said in his speech.

"Those who attempt to test Turkey's deterrence, its decisiveness, its capacity, I say here they are making a fatal mistake."

At least two mortar bombs fired from Syria landed in farmland in Turkey's southern Hatay province on Friday, one of them around 50 meters into Turkish territory, and a military unit responded immediately, Hatay Governor Celalettin Lekesiz was quoted as saying by the state-run Anatolian news agency.

A government official told Reuters there had been similar incidents over the past ten days due to intensifying skirmishes on the Syrian side of the border, and that the Turkish army had been responding in kind. But he said Wednesday's fatal strike on the town of Akcakale had been of a different magnitude.   Continued...

Syrian army tanks are seen in the Suleiman al-Halabi neighborhood after clashes between Free Syrian Army fighters and regime forces, in Aleppo city October 5, 2012. REUTERS/George Ourfalian