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Turks flee as Syrian fighting closes in

Thursday, 15 November 2012 - 10:29am IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
Turkey began evacuating villages close to its border with Syria and scrambled its air force as the Assad regime bombarded rebel positions yards from the frontier fence.

Turkey began evacuating villages close to its border with Syria yesterday (Wednesday) and scrambled its air force as the Assad regime bombarded rebel positions yards from the frontier fence.

At least 1,000 people fled villages near the border town of Ceylanpinar, Turkish media said. The Syrian air force maintained its attacks of Ras al-Ayn, the Syrian town that touches on Ceylanpinar and is divided from it by a wire fence.

As Turkish jets circled the area, Ismet Yilmaz, the defence minister, ordered the air force to be prepared to retaliate in case of Syrian regime incursions.

"The necessary response will be given to Syrian planes and helicopters that violate our border," he said.

There were also reports from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that at least 18 regime soldiers were killed by rebel fighters as they overran a military post in the area.

Rebel advances in Syria's major cities during the summer have come to a halt but they are gradually encircling the edges of the Syrian state, seizing border crossings with Turkey, attacking towns near the frontier with Iraq, and most recently taking villages next to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, toured Golan to see the situation for himself. On Sunday and Monday there were exchanges of fire over that border.

"Almost all of the villages, from the foot of this ridge to the very top, are already in the hands of the Syrian rebels," he said. "The Syrian army is displaying ever-diminishing efficiency."

The worsening situation in Syria will be discussed today by the National Security Council in London. The British government is being asked to decide whether to follow France in recognising the new Syrian opposition coalition formed in Qatar at the weekend as the "legitimate representative" of the Syrian people - effectively, an interim government.

Britain, along with France, has indicated it is prepared to review the European arms embargo to make it easier to provide weapons to the rebels. The West is keen to ensure that since the rebels are becoming better armed anyway, they can channel weapons away from jihadist and militant groups.

That aim will have been reinforced by photographs that have appeared on the Facebook page of an Islamist group, Ansar al-Islam, showing rebels with up-to-date Russian surface-to-air missiles, including the SA24, believed to have been captured from regime bases.
 




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