Syrian violence spills into Lebanon and Turkey (WASHINGTON POST) By Alice Fordham and Karen DeYoung BEIRUT, LEBANON 04/10/12)
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BEIRUT — Conflict in Syria burst into neighboring Lebanon and Turkey
on Monday, with one Lebanese cameraman killed and at least four
people injured in fighting on the Syria-Turkey border.
The attacks, on the eve of a deadline under a fading U.N.-backed deal
for Syrian troops to withdraw from cities and cease hostilities amid
a widespread uprising, risked bringing the Syrian conflict to what
the Turkish government called a “new stage.”
With the populations in neighboring countries divided between those
who support the opposition in Syria and those who hope that embattled
President Bashar al-Assad will remain in power, some fear that the
conflict could expand across the region and widen political, ethnic
and religious fault lines.
“I think we can expect more violence along the borders. I think
that’s going to be the new normal,” said Shadi Hamid of the Brookings
Doha Center in Qatar. “The more refugees there are trying to escape,
the more skirmishes there will be.”
Activists have reported heavy casualties in recent days, with 84
civilians killed Monday, according to the Britain-based Syrian
Observatory for Human Rights, along with 19 members of the security
forces and eight defectors. Hopes are rapidly dimming that a six-
point peace plan that U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan negotiated
with Syrian authorities can halt the violence.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday that
the incidents were “another indication that the Assad regime does not
seem at all willing to meet the commitments that it made to Kofi
Annan. Not only has the violence not abated, it has been worse in
Nuland added that the Syrian government was trying to “stall for
time” with its last-minute demand for a written guarantee that
opposition forces will disarm before it withdraws troops from cities
Regional, U.S. responses
Turkey, a NATO member that shares a 550-mile-long border with Syria,
has resisted direct involvement in the conflict, even as its
government has condemned Assad.
But Assad has supporters in Turkey and in Lebanon, where Hezbollah,
the dominant Shiite militia and political party, has long been allied
with the Syrian leader and his Shiite-linked Alawite sect.
Hezbollah’s chief political rival, former Lebanese prime minister
Saad Hariri, has called for Assad to step down.
In Iraq, dominant Shiites fear that an Islamist Sunni government in
Syria would build alliances with Iraq’s disgruntled Sunnis.
Meanwhile, Iran, whose Shiite leaders are Assad’s staunchest allies,
has seen its long-nurtured and highly profitable relationship with
Turkey shaken over its stance on Syria.
Turkey has resisted allowing its territory to be used for any
intervention in Syria without international legal authorization,
ideally with a U.N. Security Council resolution.
Saudi Arabia and three other Persian Gulf countries have agreed to
give the opposition Free Syrian Army a stipend of several million
dollars a month, to be used to pay fighters and to buy weapons in the
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the Obama
administration “strenuously and strongly condemned” the attacks
inside Turkey and Lebanon but that its objection to “providing
military aid has not changed.” The administration has said that it
will continue to apply diplomatic and economic pressure on Assad
while supporting Annan’s efforts. Annan has scheduled a Tuesday visit
to Syrian refugee camps in southern Turkey.
Administration officials have expressed hope that Assad’s failure to
comply with the Annan agreement will persuade Russia and China, which
vetoed previous Security Council resolutions, to change their minds.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem arrived in Moscow on Monday
for a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Attacks along borders
The violence Monday came less than two weeks after heavy fighting on
the Syrian side of the border threatened to spill into the Qaa area
In Lebanon, Prime Minister Najib Mikati used Twitter on Monday to
express condolences for the death of Ali Shaaban, part of a three-man
crew with Lebanese television channel al-Jadeed, in the Wadi Khaled
area of Lebanon on the northern border with Syria.
The two surviving journalists said in interviews with Lebanese media
that they were in a car in Lebanon, filming and taking notes, when
men in civilian clothes began shooting at them from the Syrian side
of the border and continued to fire for two hours. Lebanese security
forces rescued them, the journalists said.
One of them, Hussein Khrais, said in a telephone interview that he
was unable to ascertain whether the attackers were armed opponents of
the Assad regime or Syrian government forces.
In Turkey, violence broke out as dozens of Syrians — some wounded —
sought to become the latest of more than 20,000 refugees to flee into
the neighboring country, crossing near the Turkish village of Kilis,
north of the Syrian city of Aleppo.
According to a Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman, the refugee group
was spotted making its way to the border in the morning. Several
Syrian nationals, along with a Turkish police officer and a Turkish
translator, approached the area to help them. As the two groups met
at the border, they were fired upon by unidentified gunmen in Syria.
Two Syrian refugees, the police officer and the translator were
“We summoned the Syrian charge d’affaires in Ankara and told him that
every Syrian within Turkish territory was under Turkish protection,
and we urged him that the fighting on the other side of the border
stop,” said the spokesman, who did not give his name. “We said that
if this repeats, we will take necessary measures.”
Syrian officials did not comment on the incidents, but a state news
agency quoted a “media source” as saying that the al-Jadeed team came
under attack from a terrorist group that also fired on Syrian troops.
Syrian officials have repeatedly blamed violence on terrorists and
foreign groups. DeYoung reported from Washington. Special
correspondent Suzan Haidamous in Beirut contributed to this report.
(© 2010 The Washington Post Company 04/10/12)
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