Nasrallah Assad Ahmadinejad 311.
(photo credit: courtesy)
GUVECCI, Turkey - More than 1,500 Syrian refugees fled to Turkey on Thursday as Syrian President Bashar Assad's military crackdown on protests swept up to the border, Turkish officials said on Friday.
The European Union meanwhile extended sanctions against Syrian and Iranian officials.
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The local government in Turkey's Hatay province said the new wave of refugees who crossed the border on Thursday, mostly from makeshift camps just inside Syrian territory, brought the total number now registered in Turkish camps to 11,739.
Reuters reporters in Guvecci, a Turkish village at the frontier, said the camps on the other side of the border fence appeared to be completely deserted on Friday morning and they saw no more refugees crossing.
Assad's repression of the three-month old protests, in which Syrian
rights groups say more than 1,300 civilians have been killed, has
triggered Western condemnation and a gradual escalation of US and
European Union sanctions.
On Friday the European Union announced extended sanctions on Syria,
including three commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guard accused of
helping Damascus curb dissent. Syria denies Iran has played any role in
tackling the unrest.
According to the EU's Official Journal, the Iranians were Major-General
Qasem Soleimani and Brigadier Commander Mohammad Ali Jafari of the
Revolutionary Guard, and the Guard's deputy commander for intelligence,
Four Syrian officials were also targeted, bringing to 34 the number of
individuals and entities on the list which already includes Assad and
his top officials.
The United States, which has also imposed targeted sanctions on Syrian
officials, said the reported Syrian army move to surround and target the
town of Khirbat al-Joz just 500 metres (yards) from the Turkish border
was a worrying new development.
"Unless the Syrian forces immediately end their attacks and their
provocations that are not only now affecting their own citizens but
(raising) the potential of border clashes, then we're going to see an
escalation of conflict in the area," US Secretary of State Hillary
Syrian soldiers took up positions close to the border on Thursday and
army armored personnel carriers on the road crossing the hills.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu spoke with Syrian Foreign
Minister Walid al-Moualem on Thursday and Ankara summoned the Syrian
ambassador, reflecting the growing disquiet in Turkey. Turkey's 2nd Army
Commander visited the Guvecci border post to take stock of the new
"I conveyed our concerns in a comprehensive way," Davutoglu said of his
talks with Moualem as he arrived at parliament in Ankara on Friday.
At the border, only a handful of Syrian troops were visible on Friday,
some occupying a prominent building at the top of the hill overlooking
the border, directly across from Guvecci.
Three Syrian soldiers could also be seen at sand-bagged machine gun post
established on top of a house in the Syrian border village of Khirbat
Mainly Sunni Turkey has become increasingly critical of Assad, who
belongs to Syria's Alawite minority, an offshoot of Islam, after
previously backing him in his drive to seek peace with Israel and
improve relations with the United States. Assad also opened the Syrian
market to Turkish goods.
Clinton said she had discussed the situation with Davutoglu and that US
President Barack Obama had also talked to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip
The United States has steadily sharpened the tone of its rhetoric toward
Assad, saying he is losing credibility and must either implement
promised reforms or get out of the way.
Syrian authorities blame Islamist militants and armed gangs for killing
more than 200 police and security personnel. It is hard to verify
accounts of the violence as Syria has expelled many journalists,
including Reuters correspondents.
Protests have grown in northern areas bordering Turkey following
military assaults on towns and villages in the Jisr al-Shughour region
of Idlib province to the west of Aleppo that had sent more than 10,000
people fleeing across Syria's 840-km (520-mile) border with Turkey.