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Turkish Army Returns Fire After New Syrian Mortar Strike

Turkish soldiers stand guard near the Turkish-Syria border in Akcakale in southern Sanliurfa Province on October 5.
Another mortar shell from Syria has struck Turkish territory, prompting a fourth day of retaliatory artillery fire from Turkey.

The state-run Anadolu Agency said the mortar landed in a rural area near the village of Guvecci during intense fighting between the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime and the rebels in Syria's Idlib Province across the border.

No one was hurt by the mortar.

The agency said Turkish troops near Guvecci immediately responded with "counterfire."

Turkish artillery has been responding to shelling from Syria since October 3, when a mortar landed at a Turkish border town, killing five civilians.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 5 renewed warnings for Syria not to test Turkey's capacity for deterrence.

"Those who attempt to test Turkey's deterrence, its decisiveness, its capacity, I say here -- they are making a fatal mistake," Erdogan said in Istanbul.

The prime minister added that NATO-member Turkey was “not far” from war with Syria.

"We are not interested in war, but we're not far from it either," he said.

The latest shelling came as both sides appeared to be trying to defuse the situation. A Turkish Foreign Ministry official said on October 5 that Syria has pulled tanks and other military equipment away from the border.

Turkey, along with other countries siding with the rebels, is averse to intervening militarily, while Assad has also tried to avoid provocations he believes would trigger a foreign intervention.

The latest incidents are the most serious Turkish-Syrian crossborder violence since the Syrian conflict erupted nearly 19 months ago.

Underlining the escalation of tensions, Turkey's parliament voted on October 4 to authorize troops to launch crossborder operations against Syria and strike at Syrian targets for a period of one year.

At the United Nations, the Security Council condemned the October 3 Syrian attack and demanded that such violations of international law stop immediately.

In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest condemned what he called the "aggressive actions of the Syrians." The U.S. spokesman said the response of American ally Turkey has been appropriate.

Inside Syria, meanwhile, regime forces on October 5 launched a new offensive in Homs, reportedly carrying out heavy shelling and air attacks in the heaviest bombardment of the city in five months.

Homs is Syria's third-largest city and a center of the uprising against the Assad regime.

Fighting was also reported continuing in Syria’s largest city of Aleppo.

At the UN, the Security Council on October 5 issued a unanimous condemnation of attacks in Aleppo that killed at least 46 people.

A Security Council statement said responsibility for the attacks “was claimed by the Jebhat al-Nusra group affiliated with Al-Qaeda.”

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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