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September 24, 2021

Turkey warns Syria of stronger response over shelling

Turkey’s top military commander has warned Syria that it will respond with greater force if it continues its cross-border shelling, the BBC informs. Five Turkish civilians were killed by Syrian mortar fire last week, prompting Turkey to fire into Syria for the first time since the uprising began. Meanwhile, activists report that Syria has sent extra troops to Idlib after rebels seized a strategic town there. The first formal refugee camp within Syria is also reported to have opened. Turkey’s armed forces chief of staff, Gen Necdet Ozel, has been visiting the town of Akcakale where two women and three children were killed by Syrian shells last Wednesday. After touring the town and meeting relatives of the dead, he told reporters: “We have retaliated [for Syrian shelling] and if it continues, we’ll respond more strongly.” Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey has no intention of starting a war with Syria but that it will defend its territory.Within Syria, there are reports of fighting along a main route into the biggest city, Aleppo. UK-based activist group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, says rebels have taken control of Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province, a town on the main highway that links Damascus with Aleppo. Losing Maaret al-Numan would make it difficult for the Syrian army to send reinforcements to Aleppo itself, the organisation says, adding that Syrian army helicopters are now circling the area.In other developments, a cameraman working for the pro-government TV station al-Ikhbariya has been killed in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor, according to his broadcaster. Mohammed al-Ashram was “killed by terrorists”, director Imad Sara said.In other developments, the US military has sent a taskforce to Jordan to help it deal with its influx of Syrian refugees, and prepare for other scenarios such as Damascus losing control of its chemical weapons. The team of 150 is said to be based just 55km (35 miles) from the border, the closest US military presence to the Syrian conflict, the unnamed official is quoted as saying. US President Barack Obama has said the deployment or use of biological weapons would widen the conflict in the region and would represent a “red line” that would change his thinking.

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