Syrian refugees in Jordan 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
ALEPPO - Syrian and Jordanian forces clashed along the
border overnight in an incident that highlighted international concerns that the
civil war in Syria could ignite a wider regional conflict.
of State Hillary Clinton stepped up efforts to tackle the worsening Syria crisis
on Saturday when she arrived in Turkey for talks with Turkish Prime Minister
Tayyip Erdogan and members of the Syrian opposition.
Troops loyal to
Syrian President Bashar Assad tried to snuff out resistance in Aleppo, the
country's biggest city, but rebels said they would hit back despite having lost
ground and run low on ammunition.
"We can handle the bombing," rebel
commander Abu Thadet said in Aleppo. "It's the snipers that are making it hard."
The border clash broke out after Syrian refugees tried to cross into Jordan, a
Syrian opposition activist who witnessed the fighting said.
fired across the frontier and fighting ensued, a Jordanian said. No one was
reported killed on Jordan's side.
Armored vehicles were involved in the
clash in the Tel Shihab-Turra area, about 80 km (50 miles) north of the
Jordanian capital Amman, the Syrian activist said.
Jordanian troops have
fired near the border in the past to stop Syrian forces shooting at fleeing
But the latest clash - the most serious incident between the
two countries since the uprising against Assad began 17 months ago - is likely
to alarm Western powers who fear any spread of violence in a region divided over
Assad, who is allied to Irans, is fighting to crush a
rebellion that aims to end his family's four decades in charge of Syria. A
member of the country's Alawite minority, he is battling mostly Sunni Muslim
foes who Damascus says are backed by Sunni-led states such as Saudi Arabia,
Qatar and Turkey.
Syria's long border with Jordan has been
an escape route for Assad opponents, including Prime Minister Riad Hijab who
defected this week.
In Aleppo, Syria's economic hub and a crucial arena
in the conflict, rebels were regrouping at the headquarters of the Seyoof
al-Shahbaa brigade after retreating from Salaheddine - the district that
controls access to the city from the south.
They were preparing to return
to the district, a former rebel stronghold, to join other fighters.
reason we retreated from Salaheddine this week is due to a lack of weapons,"
commander Thadet said.
Weapons merchants say they are out of stock and
bullet prices have gone up 70 percent in the past two days, Thadet told
Fighting has ebbed and flowed over the past week but Assad's
forces were in control of much of Salaheddine on Saturday.
Thadet leads a
brigade of 30 fighters but 10 are wounded, mostly by sniper fire. Snipers are
positioned even in areas that rebels claim to control.
His men have
broken down walls within apartment buildings to make covered paths through
Salaheddine as the open streets are too dangerous.
While Assad's grip on
the country has been eroded as the uprising has gathered momentum, his forces
have consistently demonstrated their overwhelming firepower advantage against
lightly armed rebels.
In Damascus, residents reported
shelling of the southeastern district of Shebaa and said nine tanks could be
seen on the road heading out to the airport. Forces in the capital have been
much more efficient at rooting out rebels than in Aleppo, a city of 2.5 million
where fighters have flooded in from rural regions.
The United States
imposed a new round of sanctions on Friday that targeted Syria's state-run oil
company Sytrol for trading with Iran, and the Lebanese Shi'ite militant group
Hezbollah for aiding the Syrian government.
Repeated rounds of US and
European sanctions, announced every few months, have had a negligible impact on
the war. Russia and China have blocked UN Security Council action that would
have allowed tighter, global sanctions against Damascus.
"There will be
no winner in Syria," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement on
Thursday. "Now, we face the grim possibility of long-term civil war destroying
Syria's rich tapestry of interwoven communities." Diplomats said veteran
Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi could be named next week to replace the
UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, who quit after his peacemaking
efforts proved futile in the face of Security Council division.