Today Turkey retaliated to Syrian grenade and mortar attacks by bombing targets across the border. Here’s what you need to know about the escalating conflict.
1. This is the First Direct Military Contact between Turkey and Syria since the Civil War Began
Turkey has been growing concerned with the Syrian conflict and called for the resignation of Al-Assad from power. But this is the first direct military interaction between the two countries, even though in June Al-Assad forces allegedly shot down a Turkish fighter jet over Syrian airspace, killing two pilots.
2. It’s Not Known Whether the Mortar Attack Was by Syrian forces or Syrian Rebels
Something that nobody seems to know — there was grenade fire from Syrian territory across the Turkish border, but nobody knows from where. Whether it’s the rebel or army forces, nobody has owned up to it. What is known is that five Turkish civilians were killed in the attack.
3. This Brings the Average Daily Death Toll to Over 120 in Syria
The daily fighting between Syrian rebels and Al-Assad forces has brought the daily death toll to over 120. All together 30,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the fighting.
4. NATO has Convened an Emergency Meeting
Turkey is a member of NATO and therefore is entitled to the protection of the organization. Syria isn’t.
5. Two Years Ago, Turkey/Syrian Relations Were Pretty Cozy
President Al-Assad last visited Turkey in 2007, and Turkish President Gul returned the gesture in 2009. Both countries ran military drills across the border in 2009 and signed an agreement the same year that they would aid each other militarily.
6. There Are Close to 100,000 Syrian Refugees in Turkey
Turkey now says that 93,000 recorded refugees have moved across the border since the civil war began in Syria — with a further 40,000 to 50,000 more undocumented living with relatives outside of designated camps.
7. Some Syrians Still Claim Part of Turkey Belongs to Them
Like all good international conflicts, this one of course includes a disputed zone. Known as Hatay, it’s an area that was annexed from Syria by the French but released in the 1930s. After a referendum in 1938 its citizens opted to join Turkey. The Syrian powers finally accepted this in 2004 as a precursor to better relations between the two countries, but many living in or around Hatay still reject Turkey’s role in the province.
8. The Turkish Attack Came on the Bloodiest Day of the Syrian Civil War
This attack came on the same day of increased fighting in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, where today alone 34 people were killed by suicide bombers. The ancient city has seen its entire downtown area obliterated since Friday.
9. The Pentagon Isn’t too Concerned about Turkey
Though the U.S. government has said it’s watching events with “some degree of concern”, those words don’t really have people worried about U.S. troops being deployed in the region.
10. Turkey Has Been Involved in High-Level Discussions over the Future of Syria
On August 23 it was announced that Turkish officials had met with U.S. representatives over the future of a Assad-less Syria. The meeting was first brokered by Hilary Clinton, but she didn’t attend. The meeting was put forward after Barack Obama said that any chemical attacks carried out by Assad’s regime would be a “red line” and would change how the U.S. viewed the conflict.