Following the deaths of five Turkish civilians, Turkey's parliament has authorised military operations in Syria. Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister said the move was not an act of war, but intended only as a deterrent.
The Telegraph reports that according to Turkish state media, Turkey's military is firing at targets inside Syria in retaliation for the shelling from Syrian troops that killed two women and three children on Wednesday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a number of Assad regime soldiers had been killed in the overnight shelling at a base near the town of Tal al-Abyad, a target of Turkish artillery fire.
This is the first foreign military intervention in the 18 month long Syrian conflict. It presents a serious risk of the conflict escalating and spreading. In a clear attempt to reduce the risk, Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister, Besir Atalay, denied that Turkey's military operations constituted an act of war. Similarly, Reuters reports that Russia has received assurances from the Assad regime in Syria that the shelling of Akcakale in Turkey was a "tragic accident" and would not happen again. Syria's Information Minister, Omran Zoabi, has offered Damascus's "sincere condolences to the families of the victims and to our friends the Turkish people". However, as BBC News reports, the minister stopped short of acknowledging the regime's responsibility, suggesting it may have been the result of "armed groups".
The government of Turkey has requested support from the United Nations. However, the draft statement which condemns the shelling of Akcakale has been opposed by Russia, Syria's ally.
Turkey has also sought support from NATO, which has issued a statement strongly condemning the October 3 shelling that caused the death of five Turkish citizens. As the Financial Times notes, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said she was “outraged”. She described the cross border violence as a “very, very dangerous situation".
The extent of the seriousness of that danger was perhaps underlined by The head of the Israeli Military Intelligence, Major General Aviv Kochavi. According to the Guardian, he said:
The predictions of Military Intelligence that the Golan Heights would turn into a border region with weakening governance are gradually coming true.
The battles between the armed [opposition] and the Syrian army are no longer occurring only far from the border, but also at a distance of only several kilometers.
The erosion of the Syrian regime's control and the growing penetration of global Jihadist forces present a new threat, for which Military Intelligence and the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] are preparing.
The government of Turkey has advised its citizens to stay away from the border with Syria and has closed more than a hundred schools in the region.