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Syria apologizes for deadly shelling: Turkey minister

ANKARA -- Syria has admitted its shelling killed five civilians on Turkish soil, has apologized, and promised the incident will not be repeated, Turkey's deputy prime minister said on Thursday.

“The Syrian side has admitted what it did and apologized,” Besir Atalay said after parliament authorized operations inside Syria in retaliation for the killing of five Turkish nationals in crossborder shelling on Wednesday.

Atalay said the authorization was not a war cry but rather a “deterrent” against the Syrian army.

“This mandate is not a war mandate but it is in our hands to be used when need be in order to protect Turkey's own interests according to potential developments in the future,” said Atalay in remarks televised by NTV news channel.

The deputy premier also said Syria assured that “such an incident would not be repeated,” after a United Nations mediation between Ankara and Damascus.

The motion, valid for one year, was approved by 320 MPs in the 550-seat Turkish parliament in an emergency session; 129 lawmakers voted against it.

Vetoes came from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), which earlier in the day branded the motion “a war initiation,” as well as from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

The bill to allow the operation “when deemed necessary” was drafted at an urgent cabinet meeting late Wednesday, hours after Syrian shelling killed five civilians, including a mother and her three children, in the southeastern border town of Akcakale.

“Our soil has been the target of aggressive actions by the Syrian Arab Republic Armed Forces since Sept. 20, and they continued despite our numerous warnings and diplomatic initiatives,” the cabinet motion stated.

“A need has emerged to take necessary measures and to act in haste and in time in the face of additional risks and threats that may be directed against our country,” it added.

The incident marked the first time that Turkish citizens had been killed by Syrian fire since the uprising against Assad's regime began in March 2011.

An infuriated Ankara immediately retaliated by pounding unspecified Syrian targets, killing several Syrian soldiers, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which did not give an exact figure.

Turkey has also demanded that the U.N. Security Council take action against Damascus over Wednesday's fire, which drew sharp Western condemnation.

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