Turkish artillery troops fired into Syria today after a Syrian rocket damaged a mosque in the border province of Hatay. Along with the rocket, three of the regime’s mortar rounds hit in Hatay during fighting across the border in the Syrian province of Latakia between regime forces and rebels in the Armenian village of Kasab.
While the mortar shells landed in empty fields, the rocket hit the wall of the Haci Bilal mosque in the town of Yayladagi near a refugee camp. One Syrian woman near the mosque at the time was injured.
The governor of Hatay province issued a statement explaining the details of the attacks and saying, “in accordance with the change in the rules of engagement, our artillery on the border responded in like, toward the area from which the rocket was fired.”
In June 2012 after the Syrian regime shot down a Turkish plane, Prime Minister Erdogan announced that the rules of engagement for the Turkish military had changed and that “if there are any military instruments or troops approach[ing] to the Turkish borders from the Syrian side in the form of a threat they will be perceived as military threats and will be acted accordingly from now on.”
Rebel forces, led by the Al Nusrah Front, the Ahrar al Sham, and the Ansar al Sham, took over the town of Kasab about 10 days ago. The Syrian regime has been on the offensive in the area since.
Regime forces also launched airstrikes today on the city of Harem in Idlib province, across the border from the Turkish town of Reyhanli in Hatay. Some 21 injured Syrians have been taken to the public hospital in Reyhanli. Turkish security forces stepped up border control measures.
Last week a tape recording of high-level Turkish officials discussing Turkey’s Syria strategy was leaked on YouTube. The leak reveals that the Turkish authorities are highly concerned about ISIS activities and may be looking for a pretext to conduct military operations against ISIS in Syria.
In his post-election victory speech yesterday, Erdogan said openly that Turkey is in a state of war with Syria.