NATO is ready to help member state Turkey as the 20-month conflict in Syria is increasingly spilling across the border, the alliance's chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said.
"Turkey can rely on NATO solidarity, we have more plans in place to defend and protect Turkey, our ally, if needed," Rasmussen told reporters in Prague on Monday.
The NATO secretary-general also said the transatlantic military alliance still has not received a request from Turkey for a possible deployment of US-made Patriot anti-aircraft missiles. "But obviously if such a request is to be forwarded, the NATO council will have to consider it," he added.
Ankara said last week that it was in talks with NATO about the Patriots but had not made any formal request. President Abdullah Gul said last week that Turkey reserved the right to defend itself against any threat from Syria, its one-time ally, but that it was "out of the question" that Ankara would start a war.
Deadly fighting flared on Syria's borders with Turkey and Jordan on Monday while Israel fired across the ceasefire line on the Golan Heights for a second day stoking fears of a spillover of the 20-month conflict.
Syrian forces and rebels have been involved in furious and often deadly fighting in the past week around a Syrian border town, sending thousands more Syrians fleeing into Turkey which has boosted its defences along the volatile frontier. Turkish forces have systematically retaliated to every cross-border shelling since Syrian fire killed five Turkish civilians on October 3.
Meanwhile, Israeli troops fired tank shells into Syria on Monday in retaliation for a mortar round that struck near an army post in the Golan Heights, scoring "direct hits" on the mobile artillery source of the fire, the army said.
"A short while ago, a mortar shell hit an open area in the vicinity of an IDF post in the central Golan Heights, as part of the internal conflict inside Syria, causing no damage or injuries," it said. "In response, IDF soldiers fired tank shells towards the source of the fire, confirming direct hits."
"Fire emanating from Syria into Israel will not be tolerated and shall be responded to with severity," a statement said, indicating that Israel had filed a complaint with UN observers monitoring the ceasefire line.