Syria says Turkish incursion a 'flagrant aggression'​

Syria says Turkish incursion a 'flagrant aggression'​
Syria responds angrily to a raid by Turkish troops to evacuate an historic tomb inside Syria and the soldiers guarding it saying it was an act of "aggression", as tensions between Ankara and Damascus escalate.
3 min read
22 February, 2015
The Turkish flag was planted on the proposed new Syrian site for the tomb (Anadolu)
The Syrian government attacked Turkey on Sunday for what it called "flagrant aggression", after almost 600 Turkish troops, along with tanks and armoured vehicles, entered Syria to evacuate the guards of the tomb of Suleyman Shah in Aleppo province, transferring the remains to Turkey before a later reburial within Syria.

"Turkey is not satisfied with merely giving all kinds of support to its puppets Daesh [IS], [al-Qaeda affiliate] the al-Nusra Front and other terrorist groups," said a foreign ministry statement carried by the official SANA news agency. 

The foreign ministry said that it had been informed of the plans beforehand, but that it had not given its consent.

"The remains of [Suleyman Shah] have been temporarily repatriated and will be reburied inside Syria at a later date," Ahmet Davutoglu had earlier said.

Suleyman Shah is the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, and his mausoleum in Syria, on the Euphrates River some 30 kilometres (18 miles) inside Syrian territory, is considered sovereign Turkish territory under a 1920s treaty.

40 soldiers had been guarding the tomb, which was in an area controlled by the Islamic State group (IS, formerly ISIS).

Turkish authorities denied press reports last week suggesting that one of the guards may have been kidnapped by IS. 

The remains will be reburied in Ashma, Syria, and area that has been placed under the control of the Turkish army. The Turkish flag has been raised in preparation for the relocation.  

According to Turkey's Anadolu Agency, the Suleyman Shah operation, named Shah Firat (Shah Euphrates) was completeld successfully without any clashes. However, one Turkish soldier died in an accident at the beginning of the operation.

572 Turkish soldiers using 39 tanks, 57 armoured vehicles and 100 other military vehicles took part in the operation, Davutoglu said. 

CNN Turk reported that the decision to carry out the military operation was made due to the deteriorating situation surrounding the small Turkish enclave. 

State media also reported that the operation to rescue the guards began at night, near the border town of Kobane, which has witnessed months of fighting between Kurdish forces and IS. 

Based on an agreement signed with France in 1921 (when Syria was under the control of the French), the tomb in Aleppo is considered Turkish territory. Turkey has repeatedly pledged to defend it against any militia attack.

Suleyman Shah is said to have died in 1236, and his initial tomb was moved in the 1970s when its then location - also on the Euphrates - was flooded by the Syrian authorities to construct the Tabqa Dam that forms Lake Assad.

The tomb had for years been guarded largely by conscripts but in March 2014 Turkey reportedly sent a special mission of several dozen special forces to guard it. 

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