BEIRUT

Middle East

Turkey scrambles fighter planes to Syria border

A Syrian army helicopter flies over the northern city of Aleppo on October 9, 2012. Syrian rebels overrun Maaret al-Numan, a strategic Idlib province town on the highway linking Damascus with second city Aleppo, as fighting rages after twin suicide bomb attacks on an air force compound near Damascus. AFP PHOTO/Tauseef MUSTAFA

HACIPASA, Turkey: Turkey scrambled two fighter planes to the border with Syria on Friday after a Syrian military helicopter bombed the Syrian border town of Azmarin, a Reuters witness said.

There has been intense fighting between rebels and Syrian government forces this week in Azmarin and neighbouring towns, an area strongly opposed to President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

Shells fired onto the town from surrounding hills sent thick plumes of smoke and dust rising into the air during fighting on Thursday and a voice amplified through loudspeakers, audible from the village of Hacipasa in TURKEY's Hatay province, called on rebel fighters to surrender, warning of an air assault.

Fighting along TURKEY's 900-km (560-mile) border with Syria has repeatedly spilled over into Turkish territory in the past week, with the Turkish army responding in kind to gunfire and mortar shells fired from Syria.

Turkish Chief of Staff General Necdet Ozel said on Wednesday his troops would respond "with greater force" if the shells continued to land on Turkish soil, and parliament last week authorised the deployment of troops beyond TURKEY, heightening fears that Syria's civil war would drag in regional powers.

 

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