Turkey keeps close eye on Syrian drill

Turkey keeps close eye on Syrian drill

Turkey keeps close eye on Syrian drill

AFP photo

Ankara said yesterday that it was closely following Syrian military land, air and naval exercises along the border, in the aftermath of the escalation of tension over the downing of the Turkish jet by Syrian forces on June 22.

“If they are trying to deliver a message to their neighboring countries, including Turkey, they should know that we’re not in a position to get that message,” a foreign ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday. “We are closely following every military move of Syria in the region, especially after they shot down our jet.”

Syria announced that its army had begun a massive military exercise that included its land, navy and air forces, whose scenario is about responding to a military attack from a foreign country. The move came after Turkey said it had changed its rules of engagements along the Syrian border and would consider every military element approaching its border a military threat.

Turkish F-16s scrambled nine times to counter Syrian helicopters in three separate days since it changed its rules of engagement. The army also deployed multiple anti-aircraft missiles along the Syrian border. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu vowed that the Syrian leadership would pay a price for the hostile attack against an unarmed Turkish jet, sparking speculations about a potential Turkish military retaliation.

Ankara is of the opinion that its recent moves could push Syria into intimidating Turkish officials. Damascus would also like to show Turkey that any of its actions will be responded to accordingly. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has accused Turkey of harboring and supporting regime opponents who he calls “terrorists.”

“The motive of the exercise is also important, they have no need of making a military exercise if the motive is about cracking down on protestors. In fact, they make this military exercise everyday by killing dozens of people,” the official added.

‘Successful exercise’

Syrian television aired videos of a variety of missiles being fired from launchers on land and from ships, and showed the Syrian Defense Minister Gen. Dawood Rajha in attendance.

Rajha commended “the exceptional performance by the naval forces, who showed a high level of combat training and their ability to defend Syria’s shores against any possible aggression.”

“Naval Forces conducted an operational live fire exercise on July 7, using missiles launched from the sea and coast, helicopters and missile boats, simulating a scenario of repelling a sudden attack from the sea,” Syrian news agency SANA said, adding that maneuvers would continue for several days. “The Navy managed to carry out the training successfully, repelling the hypothetical attack and hitting the given targets with high precision,” SANA also said on its website.

Rebel confess training by Turkey: SANA

Meanwhile, one Syrian rebel “confessed receiving weapon training from Turkish security forces at the so-called refugee camps,” according to SANA. Another “terrorist confessed to smuggling gunmen and various types of weapons from Turkey to Syria,” also according to SANA.

In confessions broadcast on Syrian TV on July 7, Sharrouf, a 22-year-old Idlib native, said that he and his cousin Alaa Sharrouf and Samer Bakkoure had smuggled weapons from Turkey to Syria and were also smuggling people into Turkey from Syria.