Turkish troops, anti-aircraft guns stationed on Syrian border

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused neighboring Syria of a “hostile act” and “heinous attack” in shooting down the army jet last week. (Reuters)

Turkey is deploying troops along its border with Syria after one of its jets was shot down by Syria over the Mediterranean last week, a Turkish official said on Thursday.

“I can confirm there are troops being deployed along the border in Hatay province. Turkey is taking precautions after its jet was shot down,” the official told Reuters news agency condition of anonymity.

He said he did not know how many troops or vehicles were being moved but said they were being stationed in the Yayladagi, Altinozu and Reyhanli border areas of Turkey’s southern Hatay province. He said anti-aircraft guns were being stationed along the border.

He could not confirm media reports of troop movements further east along the border in the Turkish provinces of Gaziantep and Sanliurfa.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday accused neighboring Syria of a “hostile act” and “heinous attack” in shooting down the army jet in international airspace without warning.

“We did not receive a single warning, note from Syria (regarding airspace violation)...They acted without (warning). This is a hostile act,” Erdogan told a parliamentary meeting, in which he called the Syrian fire a “heinous attack.”

Turkish warplane should not be mistaken for weakness, warning Turkey’s wrath was as strong as its friendship was valuable.

Turkey was totally in the right over Syria’s “downing of an unarmed reconnaissance jet in international air space” last week, Erdogan said in a speech to his ruling AK Party deputies in parliament.

Erdogan said that the Turkish Armed Forces’ rules of engagement have changed and they will respond to any violation on the Syrian border.

Turkey would not engage in war-mongering, but the attack on the reconnaissance jet, which was deliberately targeted, would not be left unanswered, Erdogan said.

The downing of the jet has aggravated tense ties between the two neighbors. Turkey has repeatedly called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down as 33,000 Syrians have sought refuge in Turkey, fleeing a government crackdown on a popular uprising.

But Russia, a long-time Syrian ally, on Tuesday said Syria’s shooting down of the Turkish warplane should not be seen as a provocation and warned world powers against using the incident to push for stronger action against Damascus.

Turkey’s NATO allies on Tuesday condemned Syria’s action as unacceptable but stopped short of threatening any military response. Turkey also plans to approach the U.N. Security Council.

“We think it is important that what happened is not viewed as a provocation or a premeditated action (by Syria),” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.

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