In an escalation of rhetoric towards Syrian President Bashar Assad yet
unseen from Ankara, Turkish Prime Minsiter Recep Tayyip Erdogan called
the Syrian crackdown on protesters "inhumane," and described it as
barbaric, Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman reported on Friday.
some 2,500 refugees have fled to Turkey in recent days from Syria's
northern region where troops and tanks are amassing ahead of an expected
offensive, blasted the tactics employed by Syria's elite army units,
led by President Assad's brother, Maher.RELATED:UN rights boss Pillay calls on Syria to halt 'assault' Divided IAEA sends Syria to UN Security Council
they don't behave like humans," Erdogan said of the Syrian army's 4th
Division, commanded by Maher Assad, according to the report. "Now the
barbarity... [soldiers] pose [for a photo] in such an ugly way at the
bedside of women who they killed," the Turkish prime minister added,
"these images cannot be digested."
It was by far Erdogan's strongest call against the Bashar Assad, who he has previously described as a "good friend."
moves in the United Nations Security Council to impose stronger
sanctions against Assad and his regime, Erdogan said, "We can't
[support] Syria amidst all this as Turkey. We still have relatives [in
Recalling a telephone conversation with the Sryian
leader several days ago, Erdogan lamented, the Syrian leadership
"take[s] this very lightly," according to the report.
Also on Friday, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the legitimacy of
the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad was open to question after
the killing of protesters by security forces.
"I would say the slaughter of innocent lives in Syria should be a
problem and a concern for everybody," Gates told a seminar in Brussels.
"Whether Assad still has the legitimacy to govern his own country, I think is a question everyone needs to consider," he said.
The Syrian army began a military operation in a restive town
near the Turkish border, state television said on Friday, as the country
braced for more violent protests against the rule of Syrian President
The Syrian government said earlier that "armed gangs" killed more than
120 security personnel
in Jisr al-Shughour, a town of 50,000, earlier
correspondent in Jisr al-Shughour told us now that in response to
people's calls, units from the Syrian Arabic Army started its duties in
Jisr al-Shughour ... to arrest armed members," the television said.
Abdulrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said residents
in the northwestern town told him the army was still advancing towards
the town. "They can hear gunfire and so far we do not have any casualty
reports," he told Reuters.
Thousands of Syrians in the region fled
into Turkey on Thursday fearing the military assault. At least 15,000
troops had deployed near Jisr al-Shughour, which residents said had
largely emptied of people.
The latest reports of a government
crackdown intensified international concerns over Syria's handling of
pro-democracy protests, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world.
France, Germany and Portugal have asked the UN Security Council to
condemn Assad, although veto-wielding Russia has said it would oppose
such a move.
World powers have shown no appetite for any
Libya-style military intervention in Syria, which has so far shrugged
off sanctions and verbal reprimands from abroad.
Tanks deploy outside town
Residents said on Thursday about 40 tanks and troop carriers had deployed about 7 km (4 miles) from Jisr al-Shughour.
Activists and residents say the violence began after a mutiny among security forces who refused to fire at protesters.
Red Crescent said it was setting up a second camp near the border to
shelter people still crossing from Syria to escape the military
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday 2,400 people had already entered Turkey.
al-Shughour is practically empty. People were not going to sit and be
slaughtered like lambs," said one refugee who crossed on Wednesday and
who gave his name as Mohammad.
Syria has barred most independent media from the country, making it difficult to verify accounts of the violence.
45, has promised reforms even while cracking down on unrest buffeting
the country that has become the gravest threat to his 11-year
authoritarian rule. Friday prayers have been a focus of protests
throughout the revolt.