World Bulletin / News Desk
At least five people -- a mother and her four children -- were killed and 13 seriously wounded, three of whom are police officers, after three mortar shells hit the Akçakale district of Şanlıurfa province, near the Syrian border, on Wednesday, according to Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy Halil Özcan.
Akçakale Mayor Abdulhakim Ayhan told the NTV television network that officials are ready to evacuate the area if necessary. He indicated that the people of the district have been anxious for the past 10 days as clashes along the Syrian border have escalated.
The mortar shells also damaged homes and workplaces in Akçakale. There has been no immediate official reaction to the incident.
Fierce clashes between Syrian regime forces and opposition fighters have affected Turkey's border areas in the past, when stray bullets found targets in Turkish territory.
On Friday, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said Turkey sent a formal note of protest to Syria after a mortar bomb fired from Syria landed in Akçakale, damaging homes and workplaces.
Davutoğlu told reporters that Ankara had also reported the incident to the UN and NATO.
“I would like the public to know that if such violations of our border continue, we reserve the right to take action. Do not worry about that. Turkey has the power to control all activity along its borders and to take the necessary precautions,” Davutoğlu stated.
Clashes erupted on Sept. 18 when opposition forces launched an attack on Syrian forces to seize the Tal Abyad border crossing. Stray bullets fired from a Syrian border post hit houses in Akçakale, wounding three civilians and prompting local authorities to temporarily close schools. Clashes on the Syrian side of the border still continue as Syrian forces reportedly try to regain control of the Tal Abyad border gate.
Turkey is estimated to have taken in about a hundred thousand refugees fleeing the conflict in neighboring Syria and hosts a number of prominent figures of the Syrian opposition.
Another three Turkish nationals were injured two weeks ago when bullets entered the same region from Syria.
In April, Turkey officially reported an incident to the UN in which at least five people, including two Turkish officials, were wounded when cross-border gunfire hit a Syrian refugee camp in Kilis, further west along the frontier.
Turkey beefed up its troop presence and air defense along its 900-kilometer border with Syria after Syria shot down a Turkish reconnaissance jet in June.
At the time, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the military's rules of engagement had been changed and that any Syrian element approaching Turkey's border and deemed a threat would be treated as a military target.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 03 Ekim 2012, 18:02