ISKENDERUN, Turkey – A convoy of about 30 military vehicles, including trucks loaded with missile batteries, arrived in Turkey’s coastal town of Iskenderun and deployed near the Syrian border 50 km (30 miles) away, Turkish agencies said.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who has given shelter in the border area to rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, announced after Syrian air defenses shot down a Turkish warplane last Friday he would step up security there.
Turkish television film showed the column moving off on Wednesday, escorted by police cars, along a narrow highway leading out of the main port of Turkey’s Hatay province. It included rocket launchers on transporters, anti-aircraft artillery and military ambulances.
Erdogan said any military element moving towards the Turkish border and deemed threatening would be declared a military target. The preponderance of air defense weapons in the convoy suggested Turkey was preparing for any possible approach by Syrian helicopters or warplanes.
State-run Anatolia news agency said armored military vehicles were being transported to military installations in Sanliurfa, in the middle of Turkey’s border with Syria and Hatay, a panhandle province that juts down into Syria.
It said several military vehicles had travelled separately to a military garrison in the border town of Reyhanli in Hatay.
There have been no details given of new rules of engagement issued to troops after the shooting down of the warplane which Turkey says was in international air space.
The Hatay region is sheltering over 33,000 refugees as well as elements of the rebel Free Syrian Army.