Turkish armed forces have launched artillery attacks against Syria in response to a Syrian mortar strike, which has killed five members of the same family in southeastern Turkey.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, said the attacks, carried out following radar tracking, were within the rules of engagement.
Western officials, from Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO secretary-general, to Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, have condemned the attack that struck a house in the southeastern border town of Akcakale.
Clinton said the White House was “outraged” by the “very dangerous situation” created by the attack.
Witnesses said policemen have also been injured in the shelling, which originated only kilometres away from the Syrian border.
Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, briefed Ban Ki-Moon, UN chief, on the situation shortly word of the attack reached Ankara.
Martin Nesirky, Ban’s spokesperson, issued a statement in response to the attack saying: “The secretary-general expressed his condolences at the tragic loss of life and encouraged the minister to keep open all channels of communication with the Syrian authorities with a view to lessening any tension that could build up as a result of the incident”.
Davutoglu also spoke to Lakhdar Brahimi, joint UN-Arab League special representative, about the military retaliation.
Earlier on Wednesday, four blasts struck a government-controlled district close to a military officers’ club in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, killing dozens and wounding more than 100, opposition activists said.
“A medical source said that at least 40 people were killed and 90 injured,” the UK-based watchdog group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.
“Most of them were regime troops.”
Meanwhile, official television channel Al-Ikhbariya said 31 people were killed and dozens wounded.
The attacks within minutes of each other struck the main Saadallah al-Jabiri Square near a military officers’ club and a hotel.
Syrian state television reported of “terrorist explosions” in the city.
Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut in neighbouring Lebanon, said there was still no clear claim of responsibility for the attacks.
“Fighting between the government forces and the rebels continue, but no one is making any progress. The civilians are paying the price for it.”
Aleppo, Syria’s commercial hub and largest city, has seen intensified fighting between regime forces and rebels trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad, especially after the fighters launched a new offensive last week.
Aleppo-based activist Mohammad Saeed said the explosions went off minutes apart at one of the city’s main squares.
He said the blasts appear to have been caused by car bombs and were followed by clashes and heavy gunfire.
Possible suicide bombings
In a statement, the SOHR said the explosions went off following a clash between guards at the military club and armed men, suggesting the attacks may have been suicide bombings.
Suicide and car bombings targeting security agencies and soldiers have become common in Syria, particularly in the capital, Damascus, during the course of the 18-month-uprising against Assad.
But such bombings have been rare in Aleppo, which was spared the mayhem that struck other Syrian cities during the first year of the revolt.
Then, in February, two suicide car bombers hit security compounds in Aleppo’s industrial centre, killing 28 people.
Nationwide, at least 104 people were killed on Tuesday, 57 civilians, 26 soldiers and 21 rebels, the SOHR said.
Among them were civilians hit by intense shelling from the army against rebel-held areas of Damascus.
Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy, is due back in the region this week to try to revive talks aimed at ending the bloodshed, officials said.
Jan Eliasson, Ban’s deputy, said he did not know if Brahimi would be able to enter Syria, but hoped to persuade the Assad regime to “go in the direction of a reduction of violence”.
The uprising against Assad that erupted in March 2011 ago has gradually morphed into a bloody civil war.
The conflict has killed more than 30,000 people, activists say, and has devastated entire neighbourhoods in Syria’s main cities, including Aleppo.
Thousands protest in Cairo against military rule as Ahmed Shafik’s campaign declares him winner of presidential vote.
Thousands of Egyptians have packed into Cairo’s Tahrir Square to protest against the ruling military council’s decision to claim new powers, amid contesting claims by both presidential candidates of victory in the weekend’s election.
In the hub of the uprising that deposed president Hosni Mubarak, protesters chanted against his military successors, with a steady trickle of people joining the demonstration after sunset.
The demonstration comes against a backdrop of uncertainty over the winner of the presidential vote, with the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi and his rival, former prime minister Ahmed Shafik, both claiming victory.
Earlier on Tuesday, a campaign spokesman for Shafik said he had won the presidential election, countering the Muslim Brotherhood’s claims that its candidate was the winner.
Ahmed Sarhan told a televised news conference in Cairo that Shafik won 51.5 per cent of the vote and dismissed the claim of victory by Morsi’s campaign as “false”.
“General Ahmed Shafik is the next president of Egypt,” said Sarhan, adding that the candidate won some 500,000 votes more than Morsi.
Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna, reporting from Cairo, said the claims did not come as a surprise.
“What we have at the moment is both sides claiming they have won, and both sides are using exactly the same figures,” he said.
Against this backdrop of conflicting victory claims, thousands of protesters began to gather following afternoon prayers in central Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
‘Down with military rule’
Led by the Muslim Brotherhood, participants in Tahrir Square rally chanted “Down with military rule”. The opposition April 6 Youth Movement had called on its supporters to join the protests.
Hundreds more protested in front of the parliament building, a few hundred metres away from Tahrir Square, against a decree by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) dissolving the Islamist-led parliament, following a constitutional court ruling last week which found the legislature to be unconstitutional.
The Brotherhood was present in strength in the protests, called by several groups which had participated in Egypt’s 2011 uprising, against measures by the ruling military council to claim sweeping powers.
“The dissolution of the parliament is null and void, the military council must leave and now legitimacy lies with the people who elected Morsi,” said Abdel Basset Mohieddine, a Brotherhood support taking part in the protest.
The SCAF declaration also grants it veto power over the wording of a new permanent constitution and appeared to interfere with the ability of the incoming president to exercise his powers.
With official results in the presidential poll, the first since the uprising that removed Hosni Mubarak, not expected before Thursday, both camps claimed victory for their candidates.
At a news conference earlier on Tuesday, Morsi’s campaign released what they said were the certified figures transmitted by election officials to the electoral commission, which they said showed their candidate taking 52 per cent of the vote.
Egyptian state media reported that counts showed Morsi ahead.
“After the counting was finished in all of Egypt’s 27 provinces, indications show that Mohammed Morsi has won 51 per cent and Ahmed Shafik won 49 per cent,” the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper said on its website.
A confirmed win for Morsi would mark the first time the Islamists had taken the presidency of the Arab world’s most populous nation.
After campaign officials announced his projected victory on Sunday, there were scenes of jubilation at Morsi’s Cairo headquarters from where the candidate pledged to work “hand-in-hand with all Egyptians for a better future, freedom, democracy, development and peace”.
“We are not seeking vengeance or to settle accounts,” he said, adding that he would build a “modern, democratic state” for all Egyptians, Muslims and Christians alike.