Turkish people protest the arrival of NATO’s Patriot missiles in the country. (File photo)
Turkish police have arrested dozens of protesters who condemned the arrival of NATO’s Patriot surface-to-air missiles to be deployed near the border with Syria.
Police arrested 25 protesters on Monday after they tried to get through the barricades at Incirlik Air Force Base in the city of Adana, where US troops are assembling two Patriot missile batteries to be later deployed in Gaziantep near Syria’s border.
Protests were also held in Turkey’s capital city of Ankara outside the US embassy, where angry protesters condemned what they called Ankara’s interventionist policies towards Syria.
Earlier, two ships carrying two Patriot batteries each from Germany and the Netherlands anchored at the southwestern port of Iskenderun in Turkey, as part of a NATO-authorized operation to deploy the advanced armament along the border region.
The six batteries of the US-made missiles, effective against aircraft and short-range missiles, will be deployed in the southern city of Adana and the southeastern cities of Kahramanmaras and Gaziantep, along with 350 troops from each contributing country.
In December 2012, NATO approved Turkey’s request for the deployment of the Patriots in its territory. Germany’s Bundestag parliament approved the deployment – limited to one year – on December 14, 2012.
Each Patriot battery has an average of 12 missile launchers. NATO says the missile systems will be operational by early February.
Syria has censured the Turkish plan to deploy the Patriots along its border, calling it another act of provocation by the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
An anti-war protest was held in the Turkish capital Ankara on October 9, 2012
A recent opinion poll has revealed that more than 75 percent of the Turkish people are against a war with neighboring Syria.
The opinion poll was conducted by Metropol, an agency close to the Turkish government, and surveyed 3,000 respondents.
Analysts believe that this majority is increasing further and there is a sharp mismatch between the government’s policies and the Turkish public opinion.
This comes as massive anti-war protests have taken place in many Turkish cities during the past weeks.
The row between Turkey and Syria escalated after Ankara held Damascus responsible for a mortar shell that killed five civilians in the southeastern town of Akcakale on October 3.
Ankara promptly responded with retaliatory fire that continued through the next days, and Turkish lawmakers also authorized the government to use military force against Syria when it deemed necessary.
Tensions have been running high between Syria and Turkey, with Damascus accusing Turkey along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar of backing a deadly insurgency that has claimed the lives of many Syrians, including security and army personnel.
Turkey has beefed up its military presence on its border with Syria over the past weeks, stationing tanks, anti-aircraft missiles, and additional troops in the area.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on October 9 that Turkey’s armed forces would not hesitate to strike back in response to any attack on the Turkish soil after Turkey’s parliament authorized cross-border military action against Syria “when deemed right” On October 4.