In Focus | Syria

Ban warns of Syria-Turkey escalating fallout

Troops shell rebel bastions across the country, leaving dozens of people dead

  • AFP
  • Published: 14:56 October 8, 2012
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: AFP
  • A man holds his wounded daughter in a hospital in the city of Aleppo on Sunday following an air strike by government forces. Syrian rebels, lacking heavy arms and air power, are braced for the long haul as they struggle to take on army strongholds in the city of Aleppo such as the Citadel and Umayyad Mosque.
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Damascus: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned on Monday of a “dangerous’ fallout from spiralling violence along the Syrian-Turkish border, as regime troops shelled rebel bastions across Syria leaving dozens dead.

“The escalation of the conflict along the Syrian-Turkish border and the impact of the crisis on Lebanon are extremely dangerous,” Ban said at the opening of the World Forum for Democracy in Strasbourg, France.

The armed uprising in Syria has increasingly sparked violence on the country’s border with Nato member Turkey, with the Turkish military returning fire on Sunday after a shell launched from Syria struck the border village of Akcakale.

There were no casualties in Sunday’s incident, but last Wednesday five civilians were killed in the village by shelling from Syria.

Since Wednesday, the Turkish military has responded in kind whenever Syrian ordnance has breached its territory, inflaming tensions between the former allies and leading to fears of a broader conflict.

Turkey’s parliament on Thursday gave the government the green light to use military force against Syria if necessary.

The UN Security Council has strongly condemned cross-border attacks by Syria and called for restraint between the two neighbours whose ties have nosedived, with Ankara supporting the rebels fighting President Bashar Al Assad’s regime.

Shelling from Syria into Lebanon and cross-border shootings, meanwhile, have become regular occurrences, while residents of Lebanon’s frontier region accuse Syria’s army of carrying out frequent incursions and kidnapping refugees.

The UN chief also raised concerns about arms supplies to both Al Assad’s regime and rebel forces.

“I am deeply concerned by the continued flow of arms to both the Syrian government and opposition forces. I urge again those countries providing arms to stop doing so,” he said.

“Militarisation only aggravates the situation,” he said. “I am calling on all concerned to abandon the use of violence, and move toward a political solution. That is the only way out of the crisis.”

Inside Syria, regime forces brought in the artillery early on Monday to shell a string of rebel strongholds that left at least 23 people dead, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Most of the deaths occurred when the army launched intensive pre-dawn assaults on the town of Karak Al Sharqi in the southern province of Daraa and on pockets of rebel resistance in Aleppo, Syria’s commercial capital, the Britain-based watchdog said.

Among 20 people killed in Karak Al Sharqi were at least five rebel fighters, said the Observatory, which reported that some of the deaths came as troops blasted cars ferrying wounded people to field hospitals and clinics for treatment.

“Karak Al Sharqi has suffered repeated military assaults, heavy shelling and attempts to storm it over the past three days,” said the Observatory, which collates its information from a network of activists and medics on the ground.

It added that the town was facing “a crippling blockade and terrible medical and humanitarian conditions”.

Monday’s pre-dawn barrages came hours after a bomb exploded late on Sunday in a vehicle in the car park of the police headquarters in central Damascus, killing a policeman and damaging the building, state news agency Sana said.

Witnesses told AFP the blast was followed by heavy gunfire, while the Observatory said “one or two people” were killed in the latest in a string of bombings of high-level security targets in Damascus.

Jihadist groups claimed responsibility for a September 26 bomb attack on armed forces headquarters in Damascus that the authorities said killed four guards.

The northern city of Aleppo, which since mid-July has been the focal point of the revolt against Al Assad’s regime, was rattled from early morning by shelling which hit a string of rebel-held neighbourhoods as well as by firefights between rebels and troops, the watchdog said.

According to the Observatory, at least 120 people — 54 civilians, 27 rebels and 39 government troops — were killed nationwide on Sunday.

On July 18, rebels carried out a massive bombing in Damascus, killing Al Assad’s brother-in-law, the defence minister and a general.

Since then, regime forces have pushed the rebels to the outskirts of the capital but have lost control of several border crossings in the north and are battling to fully retake Aleppo in a drawn-out battle.

More than 31,000 people have been killed in violence in Syria since the outbreak in March last year of an anti-regime revolt which began as peaceful protests for reform but morphed into an armed insurgency when demonstrations were brutally crushed.

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