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New tensions along Syria-Turkey border

Turkey scrambled its warplanes Wednesday and warned it will respond to any violation of its airspace as Syrian jets bombed a rebel-held border town for a third day. Israel also vowed to defend its borders.

Turkish soldiers were monitoring the fighting from newly dug foxholes in the town of Ceylanpinar as gunfire crackled across the border, NTV television showed. Authorities used loudspeakers to warn residents to stay away as a Syrian jet dropped four bombs on the town of Ras al-Ayn, the state-run Anatolia news agency said. Several bullets hit houses, businesses and government buildings without causing casualties, Anatolia said.

The attack came shortly after a Syrian helicopter hovered above Ras al-Ayn following shelling by artillery units earlier yesterday, the agency said. Amateur video footage showed Syrians running in panic or weeping over bodies amid debris of demolished houses in Ras al-Ayn, Anatolia reported. Aerial bombardments have shattered the windows of shops and houses and prompted some Turks to abandon their homes. Schools in the area have been shut until Monday.

President Bashar al-Assad's forces have been trying to clear rebel forces from Ras al-Ayn in clashes that have killed or wounded dozens of people over the past week.

Busloads of rebel forces crossed from Turkey into Ras al-Ayn, the newspaper Hurriyet said, citing unidentified witnesses. Syria accuses Turkey of backing the rebels.

Turkey set up a field hospital in the courtyard of a school in Ceylanpinar as a precaution, authorities said. Giant red crescents were visible on top of the tent hospital -- a measure against aerial attacks.

Turkey's army has been firing back after repeated shelling of Turkish soil by Syrian forces. Turkey has deployed anti-aircraft guns, tanks and missiles on the border.

Israel said it was also determined to defend its borders and its territory and that the Israeli position has been made clear to Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking in Perth, Australia, called for more pressure on Syria and announced $30 million in humanitarian aid to those affected by the 20-month uprising against Assad, which has killed more than 35,000 people, opposition groups say.

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