Turkey gives military go-ahead 
for Syrian strikes after shelling

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasised last night that his country does not want war with Syria but is determined to protect its people as the country’s parliament approved a Bill authorising military operations against Syria.

Earlier, Turkey fired across the border for a second day in retaliation for Syrian shelling that killed five civilians in Turkey.

Mr Erdogan suggested the Syrian shelling was not accidental, saying that such shells had fallen on Turkish territory on seven previous occasions.

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“We want peace and security and nothing else. We could never want to start a war,” he said.

Syria admitted it was responsible for the cross-border shelling and formally apologized for the deaths, a top Turkish official said.

Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said Syria has reassured the UN “such an incident will not occur again”.

The border violence has added a dangerous new dimension to Syria’s civil war, dragging Syria’s neighbours deeper into a conflict that activists say has already killed 30,000 people since an uprising against the brutal ruling regime began in March 2011.

Atalay said Parliament’s authorization was not declaration of war but gives Turkey the right to respond to any future attacks from Syria.

Cross-border tensions escalated Wednesday after a shell fired from inside Syria landed on a home in the Turkish village of Akcakale, killing two women and three of their daughters and wounding at least 10 others.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the shelling was an “outrageous act”, and stark reminder of the deteriorating situation.

The Foreign Office said Mr Hague had spoken to Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu to express his sympathies.

He said: “I condemn the violence from the Syrian regime which has led to the deaths of a number of Turkish citizens, including a mother and her children.

“This was an outrageous act. We demand that the Syrian regime avoid any repetition of today’s incident on the border with Turkey.”

He continued: “The events are 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.”

Expressing his “deepest sympathies” for the families and communities of those died and at least 10 others who were injured, Mr Hague added: “Turkey is one of our closest allies and key partners in the region and we will continue to work closely together on the Syria crisis and remain in close touch over the coming days”.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US was “outraged that the Syrians have been shooting across the border”.

The Turkish bill opens the way for unilateral action by Turkey’s armed forces inside Syria without the involvement of Turkey’s Western or Arab allies. Turkey has used a similar provision to repeatedly attack suspected Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq.

But Atalay said Turkey’s “main priority” was to “act together with the international community”.

The Nato military alliance, of which Turkey is a member, met at an emergency session in Brussels on Wednesday night and condemned the attack. Nato demanded “the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts” and urged the Syrian regime to “put an end to flagrant violations of international law.”

The Turkish response to the shelling was prompt — it fired artillery salvos deep inside Syria.

Turks have grown weary of the Syrian conflict, which has brought 90,000 Syrian refugees. Yet Turkey is still loath to go it alone, and is anxious for any intervention to be backed by the UN.