Syrian and Jordanian forces clash in border area (REUTERS) By Hadeel Al Shalchi ALEPPO, Syria 08/11/12 8:38am EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - 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.
U.S. Secretary 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
Troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-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
"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.
Syrian troops 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 refugees.
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 the conflict.
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.
"The 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 Reuters.
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
His men have broken down walls within apartment buildings to make
covered paths through Salaheddine as the open streets are too
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
Repeated rounds of U.S. and European sanctions, announced every few
months, have had a negligible impact on the war. Russia and China
have blocked U.N. Security Council action that would have allowed
tighter, global sanctions against Damascus.
"There will be no winner in Syria," U.N. 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 U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi
Annan, who quit after his peacemaking efforts proved futile in the
face of Security Council division.
(Additional reporting by Oliver Holmes in Beirut, Andrew Quinn in
Accra and Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations; Editing by Pravin
Char and Angus MacSwan) (© Thomson Reuters 2012. 08/11/12)
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