Syrian jet bombs town near Turkish border
A Syrian warplane bombed the town of Ras al-Ain for a second day on Tuesday, metres from the Turkish border, sending up thick plumes of smoke and causing residents on the Turkish side to scurry for cover.
Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are trying to regain control of Ras al-Ain, which fell to rebels on Thursday. The offensive has caused some of the biggest refugee movements since the Syrian conflict began in March last year.
Rebels fired machineguns mounted on the back of pick-up trucks into the air as the jet swooped low over Ras al-Ain, dropping three bombs before returning for a second strike on another part of the town, a witness said.
Turkey is reluctant to be drawn into a regional conflict but the proximity of the bombing raids to the border is testing its pledge to defend itself from any violation of its territory or any spillover of violence from Syria.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Monday Turkey had informed the United Nations Security Council and Nato about the strikes on Ras al-Ain, separated from the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar by little more than a barbed wire fence.
Turkey has repeatedly fired back in retaliation for stray gunfire and mortar rounds flying across its 900 km border with Syria, and is talking to Nato allies about the possible deployment of Patriot surface-to-air missiles.
Ankara says this would be a defensive step, but it could also be a prelude to enforcing a no-fly zone in Syria to limit the reach of Assad’s air power. Western powers have so far been reluctant to take such a step.
In one 24-hour period last week, some 9,000 Syrians fled fighting during a rebel advance into Syria’s northeast, swelling to over 120,000 the number of registered refugees in Turkish camps, with winter setting in. Tens of thousands more are unregistered and living in Turkish homes.