Turkey authorizes military action against Syria

Anakara issued the order, which allows Turkish forces to conduct unilateral operations inside Syria's borders, after meeting with NATO leaders on Wednesday during an emergency meeting of the European security alliance. 

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The meeting was held under Article 4 of the alliance's charter, which requires consultations with all NATO members when a partner nation feels its "territorial integrity, political independence or security" is being threatened by an outside country. 

Members of the Turkish parliament approved the military action on Thursday by a vote of 320 to 129, according to reports by The Washington Post. 

After the vote, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay told the Associated Press that parliament's decision should not be interpreted as an act of war against Syria. 

Rather the move was intended to be a guarantee that Syria's growing civil war with anti-government rebels looking to oust president Bashar Assad does not bleed over into Turkey. 

Government troops and paramilitary forces loyal to Assad have battled Syrian rebels to a bloody stalemate in over 18 months of fighting in the country. 

Thousands of Syrian civlians have streamed across the border into Turkey over the past few months, in an attempt to escape the carnage. 

Syrian forces have also been repeatedly been involved in small skirmishes along the border, in an attempt to kill anti-Assad rebels fleeing the country into Turkey.

On Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday's Syrian attack “was a tragic accident and that it will not happen again,” according to reports from Islamabad, where Lavrov was meeting with Iranian officials. 

Russia and Iran have been the strongest international supporters of the Assad regime during the conflict, sending troops and weapons to Damascus since the early days of the civil war. 

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed United States support for Turkey in a telephone call with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davotoglu late Wednesday evening, hours after the initial Syrian strike that prompted the situation. 

During the call, Clinton assured Davotoglu that Washington would back Anakara when Turkish leaders bring the issue before the United Nation's Security Council in the next few months, according to the Post. 

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told reporters Wednesday the growing conflict inside Syria "is threatening not only the security of the Syrian people but increasingly causing harm to its neighbors."

NATO leaders also condemned the Syrian attack as a "flagrant breach" of international law, creating a "clear and present danger" to a key NATO ally, according to an alliance statement issued Wednesday. 

Syrian troops lobbed mortar rounds into the Turkish border town of Akçakale on Wednesday, killing five and wounding nine in the attack, according to news reports. 

Hours later, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered a counterattack against positions inside Syria, according to reports. 

In May, Erdoğan threatened to invoke Article 5 of the NATO charter after Assad forces again fired into Turkish territory in pursuit of rebel fighters. 

Article 5 claims that an attack against one NATO member can be considered an attack on the entire alliance.

In June, Ankara amassed several armored units along the Syrian border, equipped with anti-aircraft guns and self-propelled rockets, in response to the shootdown of the Turkish F-4.