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Town targeted

Syrian refugees flee across the border with Turkey.

ANKARA — A Syrian warplane struck homes in the town of Ras al-Ain today within sight of the Turkish border, pursuing an aerial bombardment to force out rebels and drawing a new warning from Ankara.

The second day of jet strikes sent Syrians scurrying through the flimsy barbed-wire fence that divides Ras al-Ain from the Turkish settlement of Ceylanpinar as thick plumes of smoke rose above the town.

Medical workers and refugees in Ceylanpinar said bombing yesterday and today struck residential areas of Ras al-Ain, which fell to rebels last week during an advance into Syria’s mixed Arab and Kurdish northeast.

The offensive has caused some of the biggest refugee movements since the armed revolt against President Bashar al-Assad began in March last year, and brought the war back perilously close to Turkish soil.

Turkey is reluctant to be drawn into a regional conflict but the proximity of the bombing raids to the border is testing its pledge to defend itself from any violation of its territory or any spillover of violence from Syria.

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan stressed that Ankara would not hesitate to respond if threatened.

“We are giving the necessary response on the border and will not refrain from a much harsher response if necessary,” he told deputies of his AK Party. “Nobody should play with fire or try to test Turkey’s patience.”

A Turkish health official at the hospital in Ceylanpinar said rebel fighters were trying to pull the wounded from under the rubble of a house. Refugees say the fighters are taking cover in homes, many of them abandoned by residents who have fled for Turkey.

“As soon as we heard the jets, we knew they would bomb. It hit another house just 100 metres away,” Mohammad Kahan, 49, a Kurd who fled Ras al-Ain with nine members of his family, said of yesterday’s bombardment. (Reuters)

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