A serious exchange of fire took place yesterday between forces in Syria and Turkey, whilst in a separate development the Israeli army evacuated tourists from Mount Hermon which straddles the Israeli-Syrian border.
In the first direct military involvement of an outside power during the 18-month conflict in Syria, Turkey yesterday shelled Syrian military positions, killing several Syrian soldiers, according to the Times. The Turkish action was a swift response to mortar fire from Syria earlier in the day, which resulted in the deaths of five people in the Turkish town of Ackakale. Another shell hit Ackakale last Friday, damaging homes and businesses.
Turkish officials announced that their response was retaliation for an “atrocious attack” and that they had targeted “points in Syria that were detected with radar, in line with the rules of engagement.”
Turkey is a member of NATO and yesterday called a meeting of NATO ambassadors to discuss the situation. Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned the attack on Turkish citizens as “an outrageous act,” adding that it was a “stark reminder of the deteriorating situation in Syria, the dangers it presents to the wider region, and the need for an urgent resolution of the United Nations Security Council.”
Meanwhile, the conflict in Syria prompted the Israeli army to evacuate tourists from the top of Mount Hermon, a popular attraction which borders the two countries. Dozens of armed Syrians approached the Israeli border yesterday afternoon, stopping just 500 metres from the fence which marks the international boundary. The incident follows the firing of mortar shells last week by the Syrian army, which strayed into Israeli farmlands. The IDF announced at the time that the mortars were “aimed at villages inside Syria.”