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Turkey closes border with Syria in face of violence

Syrians attend the funeral procession of a man killed during clashes with Turkish troops, in Afrin in northern Syria on July 2, 2024.
Syrians attend the funeral procession of a man killed during clashes with Turkish troops, in Afrin in northern Syria on July 2, 2024.

Turkey closed a handful of border crossings into northwest Syria on Tuesday, a day after Turkish troops in Syria were fired on by Syrians protesting violence against their fellow citizens in Turkey, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and others reported.

In Turkey, police detained about 475 people suspected in attacks against Syrians across the country, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said, according to Reuters.

The unrest began on Sunday after reports on social media of a Syrian man sexually abusing a 7-year-old Syrian girl. Cars owned by Syrian people in the city Kayseri were set on fire as were some shops. Angry residents told Syrians to leave.

A court in Kayseri ordered the arrest of the alleged abuser, and Yerlikaya said the incident was being investigated.

“The child and her family are under our state's protection,” said Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc.

Meanwhile, the violence spread to at least four provinces, Turkey’s MIT intelligence agency said. Social media showed injured Syrians, prompting violence across the border in rebel-held northwest Syria, where Turkey has thousands of troops stationed.

At least four people were killed in gunfire between Turkish troops and armed protesters in Afrin, a Syrian city near the border with Turkey.

Elsewhere across northern Syria, civilians threw stones at Turkish convoys and tore down Turkish flags.

The unrest caused Turkey to close several border crossings, including the Bab al Hawa crossing and the Bab al Salam crossing. The Bab al Hawa is the main crossing for people and trade for more than 3 million inhabitants.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the chaos on groups associated with terrorist organizations.

“Neither us, nor our Syrian brothers, will fall into this sly trap. ... We will not give in to racist vandalism,” Erdogan said.

When civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, Turkey took in millions of Syrian refugees, and at least 3.2 million remain in the country, according to U.N. data. Turkey has faced instances of xenophobic violence, often sparked by rumors on social media or instant messaging apps.

“Nothing can be achieved by fueling xenophobia and hatred of refugees in society,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar Assad met last week in an attempt to restore bilateral relations after Turkey ended relations with Syria in the face of the Syrian civil war.

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