AKCAKALE - Rebels tore down a Syrian flag at a border gate on the Turkish frontier on Wednesday as they battled to seize control of the crossing, and schools on the Turkish side shut down as bullets flew into the northern neighbor's soil.

Television footage showed Syrian rebels taking down the Syrian flag on top of a government building at the Tel Abyad border gate. The sound of sporadic gunfire could be heard and black smoke rose from parts of the building, which appeared to be a customs office.

It was not immediately clear whether the rebels, fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, had seized control of the whole crossing.

The fighting, which started on Tuesday evening, appeared to be the first attempt by insurgents to assert their grip over a border zone in Syria's al-Raqqa province, most of which has remained solidly pro-Assad.

Rebels hold two other crossings on the northern border with Turkey. A third border point would help strengthen their control in the north and put more pressure on the army as they battle for control of Syria's largest city Aleppo not far away.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger