NATO to ‘defend Turkey’ over Syria as border attacks intensify
NATO will defend alliance member Turkey, which struck back after mortar rounds fired from Syria landed inside its border, the alliance’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said at a meeting in Prague on Monday.
“NATO as an organization will do what it takes to protect and defend Turkey, our ally. We have more plans in place to make sure that we can protect and defend Turkey and hopefully that way also deter so that attacks on Turkey will not take place,” he said.
Rasmussen also welcomed a weekend agreement by Syrian opposition groups to put aside differences and form a new coalition.
A Syrian fighter jet on Monday bombed an area near the Turkish border, causing several casualties, officials and witnesses said.
An Associated Press video journalist saw the plane bomb an area around the Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn, some 10 meters (yards) from the Turkish border.
Meanwhile, the Free Syrian Army, the main armed opposition group, downed a regime helicopter flying above the al-Hamdan airport in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor on Monday, Al Arabiya reported.
Last week the rebels overran three security compounds in the town, located in the predominantly Kurdish oil-producing northeastern province of al-Hasaka, wresting control from the regime forces.
An official at the local mayor’s office said Turkish ambulances were carrying several injured Syrians to a hospital, across the border in the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.
The force of the blast shattered shop windows in Ceylanpinar, in southeastern Turkey, the official said. It was not clear if anyone in Ceylanpinar was injured in the bombing.
The fighting in Ras al-Ayn touched off a massive flow of refugees two days ago, and more refugees were seen coming after the blast.
Earlier, a Syrian helicopter bombed rebel positions in an area further south of Ras al-Ayn and the rebels could be heard responding with machine guns, the official said.
He said the rebels had besieged a Syrian military unit in the region of Esfar Najar and the helicopter was trying to open up an escape route for the regime forces. It was also seen dropping ammunition and food for the soldiers, the official said.
The violence in Syria has killed more than 36,000 people since an uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime began in March 2011. Hundreds of thousands have fled the fighting into neighboring Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. Another 11,000 escaped into Turkey on Friday following the surge of fighting at Ras al-Ayn.