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Security Council condemns Syria's attack on Turkey

From Ivan Watson and Saad Abedine, CNN
October 5, 2012 -- Updated 0107 GMT (0907 HKT)
In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war: In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war:
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Syria calls on Turkey to exercise restraint, says it doesn't want war
  • Turkey retaliates for fatal shelling with a second day of attacks
  • Turkey's parliament authorizes the deployment of troops
  • Attacks raise fears Syria's civil war could ignite a wider conflict

Istanbul (CNN) -- The U.N. Security Council on Thursday condemned Syria's shelling of a border town in Turkey and appealed for restraint from both countries.

"The members of the Security Council underscored that this incident highlighted the grave impact the crisis in Syria has on the security of its neighbors and on regional peace and security," said Gert Rosenthal, ambassador from Guatemala, speaking in his role as council president.

The shelling of the Turkish town of Akcakale resulted in the deaths of five civilians -- all of them women and children -- and a number of injuries, Rosenthal said.

"The members of the council demanded that such violations of international law stop immediately and are not repeated," he continued, calling for Syria to respect Turkey's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The announcement at the world body in New York came as Turkey, retaliating for Wednesday's incident, shelled a Syrian military position for a second consecutive day and authorized its military forces to venture beyond its borders.

Meanwhile, Syria's ambassador to the United Nations urged Turkey to exercise restraint. Syria "is not seeking any escalation with any of its neighbors, including Turkey," Bashar Ja'afari told reporters after expressing his government's "deepest condolences" over the shelling.

But Ja'afari also called on Turkey to stop armed insurgents from crossing its border with Syria and to prevent media coverage of opposition groups operating from its territory.

"Syria bases its behavior with neighboring countries to the rules of good neighborliness and respect for national sovereignties of states, and it invites, in return, those states to respect the national sovereignty of Syria, and to cooperate in border control and prevention of the infiltration of insurgents and terrorists, according to what Syria has always done," Ja'afari said in a letter given to U.N. officials.

Also Thursday, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported that authorities had "foiled an infiltration attempt from Turkish Territories into Kherbet al-Jouz town in Idlib province and killed several of them, including gunmen from non-Syrian nationalities. State-run Syria TV identified one of the dead as a "Turkish terrorist named Hamza Mohammed Akbar."

The developments underscore fears that Syria's civil war could ignite a wider regional conflict.

Turkish forces fired on Syrian government targets in retaliation for the artillery fire, and Turkey's parliament, meeting in emergency session, gave the government permission to deploy its soldiers to foreign countries, a semiofficial news agency said.

"Turkey has no interest in a war with Syria," Ibrahim Kalin, foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Thursday in a posting on Twitter. "But Turkey is capable of protecting its borders and will retaliate when necessary."

Opinion: Why neither side wants war

In the letter presented Thursday to U.N. officials, Syria said the incident was under investigation and expressed "deepest condolences" for the victims.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said Syria had accepted responsibility for Wednesday's shelling.

"Syria accepts that they did it and says it will not happen again," Atalay said.

Why Syria turmoil threatens Middle East

Despite the reported apology, Turkish forces for the second day Thursday shelled Syrian military sites in Tal Abyad, about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the Turkish border, the opposition Local Coordination Committees (LCC) of Syria reported.

The Syrian government said at least two of its military officers were wounded by Turkish artillery fire. Rebels told CNN that 13 Syrian troops were killed and more wounded and that the artillery fire forced the Syrians to pull back from their border posts.

U.S. reacts to Turkish strike on Syria

In the resolution authorizing the deployment of troops, Turkish officials said circumstances have "reached a point that constitutes serious threat and risk to our national security. Therefore, it has become necessary to be able to respond to further risks and threats in a timely and immediate manner."

The resolution, approved 320-129, gives the prime minister the power to decide when and where troops might be deployed for up to a year.

It points to a series of aggressive acts against Turkey by Syria beginning on September 20, when fighting between rebels and Syrian government forces near the border wounded three Turkish civilians and led to the temporary closure of area schools and farms.

Syria and Turkey once enjoyed warm relations that included visa-free travel and robust trade between the countries.

But relations ruptured as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government waged its bloody and unrelenting crackdown on anti-government demonstrators.

Turkey strikes targets in Syria in retaliation for shelling deaths

Tensions flared four months ago when the Syrian government announced it had shot down a Turkish military reconnaissance jet after it crossed into Syrian airspace. Two Turkish pilots were killed in the incident. The Turkish government insists the jet was shot down by a surface-to-air missile after it left Syrian airspace -- an assertion that the Syrian government denies.

Read more: Turkish police give Syrian refugees ultimatum

Turkey has played a key role in calling for a transition of power in Syria, hosting international diplomats at ad hoc meetings of the Friends of Syria, a group that was formed after the U.N. Security Council failed to take action.

Last March, Turkey shuttered its embassy in Damascus and the Syrian government declared Turkey's ambassador persona non grata.

Erdogan has calling on al-Assad to step down after accusing him of massacring his own people. The Syrian government, meanwhile, has accused Turkey of arming and funding Syrian rebels.

CNN journalists have witnessed light weapons in the form of assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns being shipped from Turkey to Syrian rebels.

In addition, Turkey is hosting more than 93,000 Syrian refugees in camps. Turkish officials estimate an additional 40,000 to 50,000 unofficial refugees live in the country outside refugee camps.

In other developments:

Battle for Damascus

Widespread fighting was reported Thursday across Syria, with at least 21 Republican Guards killed in an explosion in a Damascus suburb where government troops have been battling rebels, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

CNN is unable to independently confirm reports of casualties or violence because the Syrian government has restricted access by international journalists.

The LCC said Thursday's death toll across the country stood at 120, with 52 dead in Damascus and its suburbs and 35 dead in Aleppo. The Republican Guard deaths were not part of the group's count.

Russia: Terror tactics in Aleppo "immoral"

Russia denounced a wave of explosions that left dozens dead in Aleppo, Syria's largest city, as "immoral" and "inadmissible."

The comments by the Russian Foreign Ministry came as the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front claimed responsibility for Wednesday's bombings that killed at least 40 people and wounded 90 more. The group said the strikes at a popular square were carried out by suicide bombers who drove explosives-laden vehicles and by gunmen disguised as Syrian security forces.

Authorities in Aleppo Province on Thursday released 22 people "who got involved in the recent events and whose hands are clear of the Syrian blood," SANA said.

The fight for Aleppo, once considered an al-Assad stronghold, has continued since July.

"Those behind the attacks and those who carried them out must be found and punished," the Foreign Ministry said in a post on its official Twitter account. "Supporting those who commit crimes like these is immoral and inadmissible."

Russia and China have repeatedly blocked U.N. Security Council efforts to try to end the carnage. Russia's Foreign Ministry has said the conflict must be decided by the Syrian people.

300,000 and counting: The growing crisis of Syria's refugees

CNN's Ivan Watson and Journalist Gul Tuysuz reported from Istanbul. CNN's Saad Abedine, Joe Sterling, Amir Amhed and Talia Kayali reported from Atlanta.

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