Top of the Morning: Turkey Continues Strikes In Syria; Darfur Peacekeepers Killed

Top stories from DAWNS Digest.

Turkey Keeps Up Strikes Inside Syria. Calls for NATO’s Help

In response to a cross border mortar strike that killed five people in a Turkish town, Ankara launched air strikes on targets inside Syria. This is a significant escalation of the international aspect of the Syria conflict and will be a major story in the days to come. “For the second straight day, the Turkish military pounded targets inside Syria on Thursday in retaliation for a mortar attack a day earlier that killed five civilians in Turkey. The shelling came as the Parliament in Ankara debated measures permitting cross-border raids while senior officials insisted that NATO ally Turkey did not want a war with its Arab neighbor — an escalation that could turn Syria’s bloody civil strife into a regional conflict with international involvement. Local news reports said Turkish shells fell inside Syria on at least 10 occasions after midnight, landing near the border town of Tel Abyad, some six miles inside Syrian territory, across a historic fault line where modern Turkey abuts Arab lands that once formed part of the Ottoman Empire. State television said the shelling continued until dawn with four more barrages until the guns fell silent around 6:45 a.m. Activist groups in Syria said the shelling killed several Syrian government soldiers. The exchanges sent tremors across a region fearful that the mounting violence in Syria will spill into neighboring countries. Ibrahim Kalin, a senior aide to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said in a Twitter feed: ‘Turkey does not want war with Syria. But Turkey is capable of protecting its borders and will retaliate when necessary.’ In a separate message, he said: ‘Political, diplomatic initiatives will continue.’” (NYT

Four UN/AU Peacekeepers Killed in Darfur Ambush

A tragic reminder of the risks that peacekeepers undertake. “The incident, involving a Nigerian military patrol serving with the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), occurred some two kilometres from the Mission’s regional headquarters in El Geneina, West Darfur. UNAMID personnel, who were heavily fired on from several directions, returned fire, according to a news release issued by UNAMID. Four Nigerian peacekeepers were killed and eight were wounded. ‘The Secretary-General expresses his condolences to the Government of Nigeria and to the families of the fallen peacekeepers and UNAMID,’ the spokesperson added. ‘The Mission condemns in the strongest terms this criminal attack on our peacekeepers, who are here in the service of Darfur’s people,’ UNAMID’s Force Commander and current officer-in-charge, Lt. General Patrick Nyamvumba, said in a statement earlier on Wednesday. ‘I call on the Government of Sudan to bring the perpetrators to justice.” UNAMID is tasked with protecting civilians, promoting an inclusive peace process and helping ensure the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance across Darfur, which has been the scene of fighting between Sudanese Government troops and their allied militias and rebels since 2003. Since the Mission’s initial deployment at the beginning of 2008, over 40 peacekeepers have been killed as a result of hostile actions.” (UNAMID