AKCAKALE, Turkey – Turkey and Syria fired artillery and mortars across their volatile border for a fifth consecutive day on Sunday, in one of the most serious and prolonged flare-ups of violence along the frontier.
The exchange of fire stoked fears that Syria’s civil war will escalate into a regional conflagration drawing in NATO member Turkey, once an ally of President Bashar Assad but now a key supporter of the rebels fighting to topple him.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had warned on Saturday that Ankara would respond forcefully to each errant Syrian shell that lands on Turkish soil.
Ankara’s warning was coupled by an apparent diplomatic push by the Turkish leadership to promote Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa as a possible figure to head a transitional administration to end the conflict in the country.
In an interview with Turkish state television TRT Saturday, Davutoglu said that al-Sharaa was a figure “whose hands are not contaminated in blood” and therefore acceptable to Syrian opposition groups.
It was not clear whether the Turkish stance was coordinated with other allies, but the candid remarks by Davutoglu suggested some consensus might be emerging over a future role for him.
Israeli jets fly low over south Lebanon
BEIRUT – Israeli warplanes swooped low over Lebanese villages Sunday in a menacing show of force apparently aimed at the Hezbollah guerrilla group after a mysterious raid by an unmanned aircraft that was shot out of Israeli skies over the weekend.
Israel was still investigating Saturday’s incident, but Hezbollah quickly emerged as the leading suspect because it has an arsenal of sophisticated Iranian weapons and a history of trying to deploy similar aircraft.
The Israeli military said the drone approached Israel’s southern Mediterranean coast and flew deep into Israeli airspace before warplanes shot it down about 20 minutes later. Israeli news reports said the drone was not carrying explosives and appeared to be on a reconnaissance mission.
Hezbollah officials would not comment on speculation that the group had launched the drone.