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Tension Sharply Escalates on Turkey-Syria Border as Helicopter Is Shot Down & Car Bomb Detonates

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"The border is getting worse every month"

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan walks before a ceremony to welcome his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013. (Photo: AP)

(TheBlaze/Reuters) - Tension is escalating along the Turkey-Syria border as a deadly car bomb exploded on the Syrian side of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing on Tuesday, following on the heels of Turkish warplanes shooting down a Syrian helicopter on Monday.

The Turkish news agency Dogan said at least seven people were killed and 20 wounded as a result of the car bomb. The explosion occurred at a roadblock manned by hardline Islamist fighters at the entrance of the rebel-held crossing, several hundred metres (yards) from the Turkish side, activists said.

Pictures taken by activists at the scene showed several burnt and mangled cars and an engine block that apparently flew to the side of the road from the vehicle.

"The casualties are all civilians, from the people queuing to cross," activist Omar Aref said.

This citizen journalism image provided by Edlib News Network, ENN, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows the scene where a car bomb exploded at a crossing point along Syria's volatile border with Turkey, in Bab al-Hawa, Syria, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013. (Photo: AP)

No specific group was blamed for the attack. Suspects will include forces loyal to Assad, although tensions have been rising between hardline Islamist groups linked to al Qaeda and more moderate rebel forces, leading to sporadic clashes and killings.

The explosion in Bab al-Hawa took place a day after Turkish forces shot down a Syrian helicopter that was "repeatedly warned" that it must exit Turkish airspace, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said.

The Syrian army has accused the Turkish government -- which strongly backs the uprising against Assad -- of trying to escalate tensions along the border by shooting down a helicopter that it acknowledged "accidentally" entered Turkish airspace.

"The hasty response from the Turkish side, especially as the aircraft was on its way back and was not charged with any combat missions, is proof of the true intentions of Erdogan's government toward Syria to increase tensions and escalate the situation on the border between the two countries," it said.

The claim remains unsubstantiated, but Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught, reporting from Antakya in Turkey, confirms that "the border is getting worse every month."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan walks before a ceremony to welcome his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013. (Photo: AP)

More than 100,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Assad broke out in March 2011.  Since that time, violence has often spilled over into neighboring Turkey and Lebanon, and sometimes into Jordan and Israel.

Some are concerned that the conflict could lead to, at a minimum, a regional war.

Turkey, one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's fiercest critics, has made it clear that it will not tolerate another such move on its border.

"No one will have the nerve to violate Turkey's borders in any way again," Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu declared after a meeting to discuss Syria with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and their French counterpart Laurent Fabius.

(Additional reporting by Erika Solomon in Beirut; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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