Turkey Warns Syria It Will Respond 'With Greater Force' if Shelling Persists

Turkish Chief of Staff says Ankara would retaliate forcefully if shells continue to land in its territory; warning comes as Syrian government troops and opposition rebels continue to clash in several parts of the country.

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Turkey warned on Wednesday it would respond with "greater force" if shells continued to land on its territory from Syria.

"We responded, but if it continues we will respond with greater force," state television TRT quoted Turkish Chief of Staff General Necdat Ozel as saying.

He spoke as he was touring the Turkish border town of Akcakale where five civilians were killed by Syrian shelling last week. The incident prompted Turkey to strike targets in Syria.

Turkish parliament also approved a government request to carry out military operations inside Syria.

Ozel's warning came as Syrian government troops and opposition rebels continued clashes in several parts of the country, including near the border area with Turkey.

"Dozens of Syrian troops, backed by tanks, were sent Wednesday to areas in Idlib (close to the Turkish border) and Aleppo (in central Syria) after rebels managed to take over the area of Maaret al- Mouman (in Idlib) and the neighbourhood of Salahedine in Aleppo," Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told DPA.

Syrian state news agency said military troops had killed scores of "terrorists" in the town of Burj Qa'ai in Homs.

The ongoing assault by government troops in the central province of Homs has prompted a new wave of Syrian refugees into neighboring Lebanon. At least 150 civilians have fled into Lebanon since early Wednesday, activists on the border told DPA.

Syrian troops have pursued the offensive on Homs since last week and seized on Tuesday the key neighborhood of al-Khalidiyeh in the restive province.

Syrian television said the army hoped to evict the remaining rebels from Homs by the end of the week.

The Local Coordination Committee, which document violence across Syria, estimated that 86 were killed on Wednesday, mainly in Homs and Idlib.

Meanwhile, the spokesman for Syrian Foreign Ministry Jihad Makdisi said that a call by the United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon on Damascus to enforce a unilateral truce was "incomplete and reflects a half truth.

"Syria has informed the UN chief it has implemented a unilateral ceasefire before, but it has failed because the terrorist groups took advantage of the situation and started strengthening their armed presence," Makdisi added.

The Syrian government has repeatedly blamed the 19-month conflict in the country on what it calls "terrorist, armed groups" allegedly hired by Arab and foreign powers.

In Brussels, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said his country had joined forces with Syria's neighbours to monitor the chemical and biological weapons in the violence-plagued country.

"We continue to be concerned about the security of those sites," he said after talks with NATO defence ministers. "We want to be very sure that those chemical weapons do not fall into the wrong hands."

A US team is working with Jordan on the issue, while talks are also underway with Turkey on the matter, Panetta said.

Western nations have recently expressed concern that Syria might use chemical weapons in its war against rebels.

Turkish military stand near the Turkey-Syria border in Akcakale, Turkey, early October 5, 2012. Credit: AP

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