Erdogan talks tough after Syria’s ‘accidental’ strike. Ankara returned fire after a mortar bomb shot from Syria landed in a field in southern Turkey yesterday, a day after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan warned Damascus that Turkey would not shy away from war if provoked. It was the fourth day of Turkish strikes in retaliation for mortar bombs and shelling by Syrian forces that killed five Turkish civilians further east on Wednesday. The strikes and counterstrikes are the most serious cross-border violence in Syria’s conflict, which began as a democracy uprising but has evolved into a civil war with sectarian overtones. Turkey, which is a Nato member and was once an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has nearly 100 000 Syrian refugees in camps on its territory and has allowed rebel leaders sanctuary. Turkey’s armed forces are far larger than Syria’s. Erdogan said on Friday his country did not want war but warned Syria not to make a “fatal mistake” by testing its resolve. Leaders in Syria’s capital Damascus have claimed that its fire hit Turkey accidentally. The governor’s office in Turkey’s Hatay province warned people in the area not to go out on balconies or spend time in open places. There were two similar incidents in Hatay on Friday. “Those who attempt to test Turkey’s deterrence, its decisiveness, its capacity, I say here they are making a fatal mistake,” Erdogan said in a speech to a crowd in Istanbul on Friday afternoon. “We are not interested in war, but we’re not far from war either. This nation has come to where it is today having gone through intercontinental wars,” he said. Turkish artillery bombarded Syrian military targets on Wednesday and Thursday, killing several Syrian soldiers after Syria’s initial fatal bombardment. The UN Security Council condemned the original Syrian attack and demanded that such violations of international law stop immediately, while Turkey’s Parliament authorised cross-border military action in the event of further aggression. Russia, a staunch ally of Syria, has said it received assurances from Damascus that the strike on Turkey had been a “tragic accident” but Erdogan dismissed it, saying this was the eighth time Syrian mortar rounds had hit Turkish soil. The US has said it stands by its Nato ally’s right to defend itself against aggression spilling over from Syria’s war, while Russia appealed to Turkey to stay calm and avoid any action that could increase tensions. More than 30 000 people have been killed in the revolt against Assad. Although fighting often takes place in the Damascus suburbs, rebel forces have been unable to hold areas for long in the face of government artillery and air power. However, they have staged devastating bomb attacks on government and military offices in the heart of the city.