Recent cross-border violence marks another stage in Turkey's gradual transition from frustrated spectator to active participant in Syria's 19-month-old civil war. Turkish officials insist that they have no desire to go to war, and there currently appears little prospect of Turkish troops staging a ground operation against President Bashar al-Assad's forces inside Syria. But there is a danger that further clashes could develop a momentum of their own and see Turkey becoming more deeply involved in the armed struggle to oust Assad.

Recent cross-border violence marks another stage in Turkey's gradual transition from frustrated spectator to active participant in Syria's 19-month-old civil war. Turkish officials insist that they have no desire to go to war, and there currently appears little prospect of Turkish troops staging a ground operation against President Bashar al-Assad's forces inside Syria. But there is a danger that further clashes could develop a momentum of their own and see Turkey becoming more deeply involved in the armed struggle to oust Assad.

On 10 October 2012, General Necdet Ozel, chief of the Turkish General Staff, vowed that Turkey would escalate its military response if shells from Syria continued to land on the Turkish side of the two countries' 900km-long common border. His warning came a week after a shell from Syria struck the Turkish border town of Akcakale, killing five civilians. Turkey immediately responded with artillery strikes against forces loyal to Assad deployed inside Syria. Over the following week, at least one shell a day landed in Turkey from the Syrian side of the border. On each occasion, Turkey retaliated with artillery strikes against Assad's forces.

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