Israel responded for the first time on Sunday, firing what it called a “warning shot” into Syria after another mortar shell strayed across the frontier and landed near an Israeli military post. Israel also warned of a tougher response if the attacks persisted.
Israel has little love for Assad, who has provided refuge and support to Israel’s bitterest enemies through the years. But the Syrian leader and his father before him have kept the frontier quiet for nearly four decades, providing a rare source of stability in the volatile region.
The Syrian airstrikes on Ras al-Ayn hiked tensions on the country’s northern border, with Turkey.
The heavy strikes killed more than a dozen people in the town and nearly 70 wounded were brought into Turkey for treatment, a Turkish official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.
Regime forces and rebels have been battling for days over the town, which lies practically adjacent to the border.
Last week Syrian rebels overran three security compounds in Ras al-Ayn and wrestled control of the town, located in Syria’s predominantly Kurdish, oil-producing northeastern province of al-Hasaka. A surge of 11,000 more Syrians escaped into Turkey on Friday following the fighting at Ras al-Ayn.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, speaking to reporters in Rome, said Ankara had formally protested the bombings close to the border, saying the attacks were endangering Turkey’s security, state-run TRT television reported. He said Turkey had also reported the incident to NATO allies and to the United Nations Security Council.