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Turkey's parliament backs military action against Syria

Turkey's parliament has backed a bill theoretically allowing its military to step up attacks on Syria. Ankara has been firing on Syrian targets since cross-border shelling by Syria left five Turkish people dead.

Turkey’s parliament Thursday approved a bill which gives its military the go-ahead to carry out cross-border operations in Syria, should the government deem it necessary.

The Anadolu Agency said the bill gives the government the legal authority to attack Syrian targets with troops and warplanes for up to one year.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said that the decision did not put the country on a war footing. "This decision is not for war... It has deterrent qualities," he said.

Turkey's military meanwhile continued to carry out artillery strikes on neighbor Syria Thursday, according to Turkish security sources. Turkish shells hit the Tal Abyad area, where Syrian troops have artillery bases.

The day after the night before

Late on Wednesday, Turkey fired on positions in Syria, targeting Rassem al-Ghazaal in Tal Abyad, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. At least five Syrian soldiers were killed and more than 15 were injured in the Turkish strike on Wednesday.

Ankara's moves were in response to strikes, allegedly from Syria earlier in the day, which killed five Turkish civilians in a town close to the border.

Turkey also called on the United Nations Security Council to take action against Syria on Wednesday.

"This is an act of aggression by Syria against Turkey," Turkish UN Ambassador Ertugrul Apakan wrote in a memorandum to the Council's president, Guatemalean Ambassador Gert Rosenthal.

"It constitutes a flagrant violation of international law as well as a breach of international peace and security," the letter said.

Countries call for restraint

Foreign policy officials in Europe and Russia called for restraint on Thursday. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on Damascus to say publicly that the mortar bomb attack on Turkey was an accident and would not happen again.

Watch video 01:38

Turkey retaliates and attacks Syrian targets

"We utterly condemn the Syrian attacks on Turkey," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said to reporters in Berlin on Thursday after hosting talks with Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. "At the same time, we appeal to both sides to show great discretion."

"We stand alongside Turkey," Merkel said. "We are in contact with Turkey at all levels, and at the same time, I think that discretion is the watchword which Germany is very resolutely advocating."

Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, also warned against a deterioration of the situation.

"Now it is time to diffuse the situation," said Westerwelle. "We now want solidarity and prudence to be the measure of our actions," he added.

Following a meeting of the 15-nation Security Council to discuss the attack on Wednesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon issued a statement calling on all sides in the conflict to work towards a diplomatic resolution, further urging Turkey to maintain open dialogue with the Syrian government.

sej/dr (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)

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