|A handout photo provided by Syria's Arab News Agency SANA shows destruction and huge damages caused by the three explosions that had rattled Saadallah al-Jabiri Square in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria, on Oct. 3, 2012. According to media reports, three suicide car bombs exploded simultaneously in the area, killing at least 30 people. (Xinhua/SANA)
ANKARA, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- After artillery shells from Syria killed five people in Turkey on Wednesday, Turkey immediately attacked targets in Syria in retaliation, raising fears that the Syrian crisis may escalate into a region-wide war.
So far, Turkish military response was limited, reflecting Ankara's reluctance to plunge into a war with its troubled neighbor.
Turkish government officials scrambled late Wednesday to evaluate the incident, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan cancelling his regular schedule and holding urgent meetings with senior cabinet members and military advisors.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu have separately called UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and the UN-Arab League joint special envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi to brief them about the incident.
TURKEY SAW "OPEN PROVOCATION"
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay described the Syrian shelling as an "open provocation" that aimed to pull Turkey into a war against Syria.
Metehan Demir, commentator from Hurriyet daily, said the attack was not a random one but rather a deliberate attempt by Syria. "If the mortar shell landed in a crowded downtown residential area, this could not be interpreted as a bomb gone astray. Some people are giving an open message to lure Turkey into a war," he said.
Some analysts said the shelling from Syria could be a warning against the "Morsi-Erdogan Duo." During a one-day visit to Turkey on Sunday, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said Cairo and Ankara agreed on many issues, such as the Syrian crisis and the Palestinian issue.
Since both Turkey and Egypt have openly called for the departure of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad from power, "the meaning of mortar bombs from Syria is that Damascus said, 'I got your message on Sunday, and here is my response to it,'" said Turkish analyst Emre Uslu.
Turkish government spokesperson and Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said Turkey is bound to respond to such provocation by the Syrian side.
"This was the last drop of water that made the vase overflow. We will respond," Arinc said.
"Our armed forces on border region have given the required response in line with the rule of engagements. Targets in Syria, which were detected by radar, were shot by shelling," Turkish prime ministry said in a statement.
So far, Turkish military response was limited, as Turkey does not want to escalate the situation and destabilize its southern provinces. Turkish military has raised the alert level along the Turkish-Syrian border to maximum.
Arinc said Turkey might invoke collective security protection mechanism in NATO military alliance.
"Turkey has no desire to get embroiled into the Syrian crisis, unless there is clear legitimacy from international organization like UN or a mandate from regional organizations," Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, head of Ankara's International Strategic and Security Research Center (USGAM), told Xinhua by phone.
INT'L COMMUNITY WORRIED
After the Syrian shelling that killed five Turkish people and wounded 13 others, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Syria to respect territorial integrity of its neighbors and end violence against the Syrians, calling on both Turkey and Syria to keep communication channels open.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the spread of violence across the Turkey-Syria border is "a very, very dangerous situation."
Ibrahim Karagul, foreign policy expert of Yeni Safak daily newspaper, worried that the conflict might escalate into regional war. "It appears some people have opened Pandora's box for Turkey, " he said.
Wednesday's shelling is the second incident across the Turkish- Syrian border over the past week. Last Friday, a Syrian mortar strike damaged houses and workplaces in the same Turkish town, wounding three people. Turkey has sent a formal note of protest to Syria and reported it to the UN and NATO.
In April, Turkey reported an incident to the UN in which at least five people, including two Turkish civil servants, were wounded when cross-border gunfire hit a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey's southern province Kilis.
Turkey has beefed up its troop presence and air defenses along the almost 900-kilometer border after Syria shot down a Turkish reconnaissance jet in June. At the time, Erdogan said the rules of engagement by Turkish military had been changed and that any Syrian element approaching Turkish border deemed as a threat would be treated as a military target.