AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
Turkey says its army has fired artillery at targets inside neighboring Syria. A statement from Turkey's prime minister says the move comes in response to a Syrian attack on a Turkish border town earlier today. That attack killed five people, including women and children. Turkey has alerted the United Nations Security Council and is asking NATO for an emergency meeting. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned Syria's attack.
SECRETARY HILLARY CLINTON: We are outraged that the Syrians have been shooting across the border. We are very regretful about the loss of life that has occurred on the Turkish side.
CORNISH: NATO has called on Syria to put an end to what it calls flagrant violations of international law.
NPR's Kelly McEvers is in Beirut. She just returned from the Turkish-Syrian border and the area where all this happened today. I asked her if this is the first time Syria has fired into Turkey.
KELLY MCEVERS, BYLINE: No, it's not. You know, since the Syrian uprising began, there've been several cross-border skirmishes between the Syrians and the Turks. There was an incident in April where Syrian army fired into Turkey, actually killing a few Syrians in a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey. There was, of course, in June, over Syrian territory, a Turkish jet that the Turks say had just left Syrian territory was shot down by the Syrians, killing the two pilots inside. And now, we have this incident.
The place in question is a town, a small town on the Turkish-Syrian border, Turkish town called Akcakale. The importance of this town is that Syrian rebels trying to bring down the Syrian regime have recently secured or - what they say - liberated the border crossing between Turkey and Syria, right there, right there at Akcakale. So it appears that the Syrian army is firing into Turkish territory, into Akcakale as a way to retaliate against these rebels, to target these rebels.
CORNISH: Turkey and Syria were once close allies. How is that relationship changed recently?
MCEVERS: Very close relationship in the past. You know, the two had great trade relations there across that border. It's even was said that, you know, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would take vacations together, that they were so close. That relationship really deteriorated when the Syrian uprisings started a year and a half ago. And you saw Syrian forces targeting people, protesters in the streets, and Turkey calling for Bashar al-Assad to step down. Turkey later closed its embassy in Syria. And now, Turkey regularly calls for him to step down along with other countries, including the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar, predominately Sunni countries here in the region.
And now, these incidents have really ratcheted up, I think, the tensions between the two countries. And this is definitely the most tense we've seen it so far.
CORNISH: Kelly, as we mentioned, you just returned from the Turkish-Syrian border. Can you describe the scene at this town?
MCEVERS: We were in Akcakale at this border crossing. We actually cross from Turkey into Syria at this crossing that rebels, you know, say that they've recently liberated. And, you know, this isn't even the first time that the Syrians have shot into Akcakale. The day after we left, there was another incident where a mortar fell. No one was killed, but I can tell you that the people of this town are terrified. I mean, they've moved away from the border. Local authorities have told them they can't go anywhere near it. Schools have been closed. And now, you know, this incident. There are reports that locals went into the local mayor's office protesting, demanding that something be done.
CORNISH: Kelly McEvers speaking to us from Beirut. Thank you, Kelly.
MCEVERS: You're welcome.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.