A new and dramatic turn in the Syrian crisis;: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Friday night, June 10, ordered his army to move into northern Syria where battles were blazing in Idlib, Maarat al-Numaan and Jisr al-Shuhour. debkafile's exclusive sources report that the prime minister's office and high command in Ankara are still working out how to define the Turkish military mission in Syria. One proposal is to evoke UN Security Council's 1973 resolution which mandated the NATO operation in Libya to protect civilian lives against Col. Qaddafi.
Turkey would be acting to defend Syrian civilians against a crackdown which Erdogan called barbaric.
Ankara decided on military intervention Friday night, two days before Turkey's general election, after learning about the latest turn in the showdown between the Syrian government and the opposition.
Most of the day's reporting focused on the small northern town of Jisr al-Shughour near the Turkish border, where tanks blasted residential areas Friday night and killed an estimated 28 civilians to punish its residents for the 120 officers and soldiers killed in clashes with protesters Monday, June 6.
Away from the limelight, heavy fighting also raged in Idlib, west of Syria's second largest town Aleppo, and Maarat al-Numaan, a small western market city located on the highway between Aleppo and Hama.
In these places, the Syrian army encountered the guns of a Muslim Brotherhood militia fighting alongside a group of defecting soldiers, according to our military sources.
In the late afternoon, Assad sent tanks and attack helicopters armed with heavy machine guns to strike rebel positions. The casualty toll in this northern battleground is believed to be the highest of any day since the start of the uprising in early April.
The Turkish expeditionary force in Syria will have three missions:
1. To stem the swelling stream of Syrian refugees fleeing massacre at the hands of government forces. Ankara has accepted over 3,000 refugees from Jisr al-Shughour who are desperate to escape certain slaughter; it is not prepared to take on tens or possible hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing from larger towns like Idlib, Maarat al-Numaana and the Kurdish regions abutting the Turkish border.
2. To mark out a military zone on the Syrian side of the border where the Red Crescent will set up camps for Syrian refugees to shelter under Turkish army protection;
3. Next week, the Turkish army will establish a military buffer zone in the Kurdish region of northern Syria near its main town, Qamishli.
The Erdogan government will be taking the chance of Assad deciding that the Turkish military incursion is an act of war. Fighting would then break out between the two armies.