“We have all necessary plans in place to protect and defend Turkey if necessary,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Ramussen said in Brussels, noting that the 28-member NATO alliance, of which Turkey is a member, was holding out hope that an alternative path could be found.
Turkey has reinforced its 566-mile border with Syria, but tensions have escalated as Turkey has reached out to Syrian rebel groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad over the course of the 19-month conflict.
Today, several mortars landed in Turkey across from the Syrian border town of Azmarin, and heavy gunfire could be heard from Turkey, according to a separate Reuters report. Whether the shells are intended for Turkey – or are simply due to Syrian troops overshooting their rebel targets – is unclear.
The United Nations and activist groups place the death toll of the Syrian conflict between 20,000 and 30,000 people. An estimated 100,000 refugees fleeing the violence in Syria are now housed in Turkish camps. But Turks living near the Syrian border have experienced the day-to-day terror of Syria’s ongoing conflict as well, as described by Reuters:
Just outside Hacipasa, nestled among olive groves in Turkey's Hatay province, the sound of mortar fire could be heard every 10 to 15 minutes on Tuesday from around the Syrian town of Azmarin. A Syrian helicopter flew over the border.
Villagers used ropes and boats to ferry the wounded across a river into Turkey.
Rebels with AK-47s slung over their shoulders carried an Free Syrian Army officer down to the river bank on the Syrian side, using a carpet and two poles as a makeshift stretcher….