Turkey strikes back after Syrian shell hits border village where five died

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There were no immediate reports of casualties in the latest incident.

The first incident caused a spike in tensions between the former allies and renewed fears of a broader conflict. Nearly 80 percent of towns and villages along the Turkish border are outside the control of Damascus, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Turkish parliament on Thursday gave the government the green light to use military force against Syria if necessary.

The U.N. Security Council on Thursday strongly condemned cross-border attacks by Syria and called for restraint between the two neighbors.

On Saturday, rebels cemented their control of Syria’s northern frontier with Turkey after seizing the town of Khirbat al-Joz in the northwest province of Idlib after a pitched battle with regime troops, the Observatory said.

“The clashes at Khirbat al-Joz... ended when fighters of the rebel brigades took control of the area,” said the Britain-based watchdog.

“The fighting lasted more than 12 hours and resulted in at least 40 dead among the regular forces, including five officers, and nine (rebel) fighters,” it added.

Nearly 80 percent of towns and villages along the Turkish border are outside the control of Damascus, according to the Observatory.

AFP correspondent have passed through large swathes of territory in the Idlib and Aleppo provinces of northern Syria that have fallen outside government control, with residents running their own affairs.

With tensions between Turkey and Syria spiking, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu urged that Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Shara take the helm in Syria.

“Faruq al-Shara is a man of reason and conscience and he has not taken part in the massacres in Syria. Nobody knows the (Syrian) system better than he,” Davutoglu said on public television channel TRT.

The Turkish minister stressed that the Syrian opposition “is inclined to accept Shara” as a future leader.

Shara, the most visible Sunni Muslim figure in the minority Alawite-led government, is trusted by the regime and was foreign minister for 15 years before becoming vice president in 2006.

Since the uprising against Assad’s rule erupted in March last year, more than 31,000 people have been killed, according to the Observatory.

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