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Antagonized by Border Violence, Turkey Shells Military Targets Inside Syria

October 4, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
After a stray shell fired by the Syrian government hit a house in a border town in Turkey, Syria's neighbor retaliated and fired back, killing several Syrian soldiers. Independent Television News' Lindsey Hilsum reports on increasing tensions, the fear of the war escalating beyond Syria and a diplomatic intervention from Russia.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Fears that the Syrian civil war may escalate into a regional conflict grew today, as neighboring Turkey shelled military targets inside Syria for a second day. That’s after a Syrian mortar round hit a Turkish home on Wednesday, killing five people.

Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News filed this report.

LINDSEY HILSUM: They were killed not in Syria, but over the border in Turkey, casualties of a conflict that threatens to destabilize the region.

The town of Akcakale is dangerously close to the fighting. A line on a map was no protection for three children and two women from the same family.

MAHNUT SOKE, Syria: (through translator): The dead people were my neighbors, just next door. The past six weeks have been traumatic for both adults and children. We can’t sleep at night because the bombing continues until morning.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The stray shell, apparently fired by the Syrian army, hit yesterday evening. It caused consternation in the town, and the Turkish military quickly fired back with artillery, killing several Syrian soldiers.

Syria is furious that Turkey lets the rebel Free Syrian Army control some border posts, but even Syria’s allies the Russians were clear that Syria can’t widen the war.

SERGEI LAVROV, Russian Foreign Minister (through translator): Thorough our ambassador, we maintain contacts with Syria and they assure us also through the U.N.’s special envoy for Syria, Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, that it was a tragic accident, and such accidents will not be repeated in the future.

But it’s important that Damascus confirms this in reality.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Scuffles outside the Turkish parliament in Ankara. Only a few protested, but many Turks fear war erupting with their neighbor, once a friend, now deemed an enemy.

Inside the chamber, M.P.’s granted the government powers to send troops over the border, but that looks unlikely. And by this evening, the Syrians had done exactly what the Russians asked.

BASHAR JA’AFARI, Syrian ambassador to the United Nations: Deepest condolences of the government of Syrian Arab Republic were presented to the families of the martyrs and to the friendly and brotherly people of Turkey.

LINDSEY HILSUM: Inside Syria, the war grows ever more bitter. Neighboring countries and world powers have picked sides and are providing arms and other support.

It’s clear that no one, least of all Turkey and Syria, wants the war to spill over the border.