News / Middle East

    Fighting Rages in Syria, Turkey Closes Key Crossings

    Henry Ridgwell
    ONCUPINAR, Turkey - Fierce fighting continued in Syria on Wednesday. Rebels sent reinforcements to the battered historic city of Aleppo as government forces stepped up attacks with helicopters and machine guns.
     
    Activists say rebels set fire to a police station near Aleppo. They also say clashes and heavy shelling have continued in regions including Homs, Hama, Deir el-Zour and the Damascus suburbs as President Bashar al-Assad tries to maintain his grip on power.
     
    The opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 40 people have been killed across Syria on Wednesday.

    Watch related video of violence in Aleppo:

    Turkey Closes Border

    Neighboring Turkey has closed key border crossings to commercial traffic from Syria but says they remain open for refugees.
     
    Ankara says it is taking the measure due to security concerns. Last week, Turkish drivers said their trucks were looted and burned as rebels captured the Syrian side of the Cilvegozu crossing from government forces.
     
    Analysts say the closures will affect Syria's economy by hitting cross-border trade.
     
    At the Kilis refugee camp near Oncupinar, Syrian refugee Abu Hasan expressed support for Turkey's policy. "I think this is an appropriate decision," he said. "Turkey is making the decision to protect its border as well as to protect us."
     
    The Killis camp houses more than 11,000 Syrians.
     
    Refugees Increasing
     
    The number of refugees is increasing, with most using clandestine smuggling routes over the border.
     
    Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay says more than 44,000 refugees are now sheltered in Turkey.
     
    "There is an expectation that more people may come in," he said. "Therefore, today we have decided to build new camps in several locations including Osmaniye, Kahramanmaras and Nizip."
     
    The Arab League has pledged $100 million to help the Syrian refugees.
     
    Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal says Turkey welcomes donations of equipment, but does not need personnel.
     
    "Some of this assistance has arrived, in the sense of material assistance, and we are ready to receive more of the selected items that we have announced," he said. "And our open door policy will continue."

    Reducing the U.N. Mission
     
    Meanwhile, U.N. observers in Syria say their mission is dwindling.
     
    Herve Ladsous, the head of U.N. peacekeeping operations, said the Syrian operation continues on a "reduced basis."
     
    He told reporters in Damascus on Wednesday that the security situation in many parts of the country is "extremely delicate."

    • This image made from amateur video released by the Ugarit News shows a Free Syrian Army solider firing his weapon during clashes with Syrian government troops in Aleppo, Syria, July 24, 2012.
    • Free Syrian Army soldiers at the border town of Azaz, 32 kilometers north of Aleppo, Syria, July 24, 2012.
    • This image from amateur video released by the Ugarit News shows a Free Syrian Army solider driving a Syrian military tank in Aleppo, Syria, July 24, 2012.
    • This citizen journalism image provided by Shaam News Network purports to show a helicopter gunship flying a bombing run in al-Qalmoun, Syria, July 24, 2012.
    • This image provided by Shaam News Network shows smoke rising from Juret al-Shayah in Homs, Syria, July 23, 2012.
    • This citizen journalism image provided by Shaam News Network purports to show damage from heavy shelling of the al-Qadam district of Damascus, Syria, July 23, 2012.
    • A member of the Free Syrian Army points his weapon through a hole in a wall as he takes up a defense position in a house in Qusseer neighborhood in Homs, Syria, July 16, 2012.
    • A woman holds a child in front of their destroyed home in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers northwest of Hama, July 14, 2012.
    • Free Syrian Army soldiers aim their weapons in Idlib, northern Syria, July 13, 2012.
    • This image made from amateur video from Hama Revolution 2011 purports to show a funeral for victims killed in Tremseh, Syria, July 13, 2012. (AP/ Hama Revolution 2011)
    • This image made from amateur video from Hama Revolution 2011purports to show families gathered around bodies of victims killed in Tremseh, Syria, July 13, 2012.
    • Members of the Free Syrian Army walk through Qusseer neighborhood in Homs, Syria, July 15, 2012.
    On Friday, the U.N. Security Council approved a resolution renewing the observer mission for up to 30 days. The resolution allows for a pullout if the violence does not stop.
     
    Earlier this week, the European Union decided to strengthen its arms embargo against the Syrian regime, blacklist nearly 30 government-associated people and companies, and ban the Syrian national airline from landing in EU countries.
     
    On Wednesday, Russia's foreign ministry expressed opposition to the EU sanctions, saying they could be seen as a "blockade" of the country.
     
    Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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    Comments
         
    by: Joseph Zrnchik from: Highland, IN
    August 05, 2012 4:55 AM
    Michael from Cleveland,

    That Iraq was a Sunni state when the US attacked does not mitigate the fact that there were hundreds of thousands of Shiites killed and that during the occupation the US fought non-Sunni militias as much as they did the "Baathist Dead-enders". In fact, the US ended up making allies of the "Sons of Iraq" and the "Awakening Councils" which were Sunni militias as the US was fighting Shiite SCIRI (later SIIC), the Badr Brigades and the Madhi Army, not to mention the scores of local Shiite militia groups that had established checkpoints and controlled neighborhoods.

    That Saddam was Sunni does not mean he had a relationship with al Qaeda or bin Laden. He despised them as much as Iraqi and Iranian Shiites did/do.

    As far as tactical brilliance, this is an overstatement. Tanks and heavy artillery are never good tools for fighting in a built up areas as MOUT requires street-to-street, house-to-house and room-to-room fighting that is man-power intensive and will deplete any force. Saddam was an idiot for trusting the U.S. and leaving Kuwait only to have the US stab him in the back on the Highway of Death after he agreed to return his army to Iraq and was promised safe passage by the U.S.

    But, how smart is it if what you seek to win lies completely in ruins because you fought and destroyed what you could have won through negotiation? All al Qaeda did was destroy the homes and businesses that Sunnis lived in and worked at. They refused to negotiate and ended up destroying their own land. Do you think the al Qaeda imports care about the common person's house or job? They are all radical jihadists. Assad wanted to provide reforms, but the US would rather destroy all of Syria, in fact wanted to destroy all of Syria to marginalize it and use it to get under Iran's skin for Israel. So, now we will see how much these Sunni fighters will end up under the Iraq government's and Jordanian government's skin as these Sunnis death squads begin their terror and destruction campaign.

    Mark my words, the US will curse the day it made alliances with al Qaeda.

    by: east from: China
    July 26, 2012 2:44 AM
    Two dogs are flighting at home,then a tiger and a fewer wolves will take the opportunity to kick out ur door,finally the two dogs will..................

    by: Anonymous
    July 25, 2012 9:28 PM
    You just keep sipping your tea Lavrov, Putin, and Medvedev while thousands are being tortured, raped, and less terrible killed.

    I hope you wear that cup of tea you are sipping, you guys have proven time after time you are useless to the world. Show the world you care someday, you care nothing about anyone but money in your own pockets, from weapons, black market or any other way you can get it. I pray for your country to overthrow you guys.

    by: Anonymous
    July 25, 2012 9:20 PM
    Funny how the Russians use the RT.com website to promote their propaganda, comical...

    Lavrov states "US position on Syria directly endorses terrorism"

    What an idiot and so is anyone who listens to him, we in the west believe that "Russian Government position in Syria directly endorses genocide, and Russia has only one interest there, not the innocent civillians, just their navy base, it's evident."

    If the Russian Government had any care in the world for the Syrian people as a whole, they would of told Assad to get out of town... But because Russia has backed the leader Assad for many years, Russia cares nothing about the Syrian people, just accepting money and likely bribes from Assad.

    by: Michael from: Cleveland
    July 25, 2012 7:43 PM
    First let me say that Iraq was lead by Sunni before the war and only after did the Shiite get into a position of power. So Joseph Zrnchik from: Highland, IN should check his facts and take some time to really understand the world. And please stay away from the Kool aid, it rots your brain.
    Second, I really do not know how well organized the FSA is and my guess is not very well. I do not know if it is strategy or just dumb luck but, what they are doing is brilliant tactically. The core of the Syrian army is armor and heavy weapons and that requires both a lot of logistics and maintenance to keep them in the field. By attacking Damascus and waiting a few days and going into Aleppo and retreating from Damascus they are forcing all of this to move constantly. If they do this right they will back out of Aleppo and go back after Damascus while the whole time harassing the supply convoys and staging areas with small groups. There are some other areas they can hit also to force the army to try to defend everywhere at once and be unable to defend anywhere.
    Art of war, Still as true today as it ever was :)

    by: Anonymous
    July 25, 2012 4:32 PM
    Of the 40 killed today how many were terrorists? Likely none.
    Likely innocent men, women and children. There is only one terrorist in Syria, his name is Assad, terrorizing his own people. I hope FSA gets their hands on him soon...It will be a happy ending just like Saddam & Ghadaffi. Seeing as Assad has chosen to go down with the ship, I hope he pays through the nose and then some.

    by: Burak from: Turkey
    July 25, 2012 2:59 PM
    Turkey always help people no matter what their nation is.As always did in the past.

    by: Joseph Zrnchik from: Highland, IN
    July 25, 2012 8:03 AM
    The militants are al Qaeda funded by Saudi Arabia. This is proof the Saudi government was connected to the 9/11 attacks on the US. Yet, since Bush was buddies with the bin Laden family we decided to attack a Shiite Iraq for what a Sunni Saudi did on 9/11. That makes as much sense as attacking Canada for what a Mexican drug lord did. Then we supported these al Qaeda fighters in Libya and now we are doing it in Syria. I thought we fought a decade long war to stop al Qaeda. So, why are we now supporting them? Another peice of evidence that shows the War on Terror is just a scam to put Americans under a police state.

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