Syrians flee as troops mass, West concern grows

AMMAN Thu Jun 9, 2011 6:34pm EDT

1 of 10. Syrian refugees are seen at a refugee camp in the Turkish border town of Yayladagi in Hatay province, June 9, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Osman Orsal

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AMMAN (Reuters) - Thousands of Syrians fled into Turkey fearing a military assault, officials said, as the country braced for the prospect of more violent protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad on Friday.

Government troops massed outside Jisr al-Shughour, the scene of recent demonstrations, fleeing residents said on Thursday, adding the settlement was now largely deserted.

The latest reports of a government crackdown intensified international concerns over Syria's handling of pro-democracy protests, inspired by uprisings across the Arab world.

Britain, France, Germany and Portugal have asked the U.N. Security Council to condemn Assad although veto-wielding Russia has said it would oppose such a move.

World powers have shown no appetite for any Libya-style military intervention in Syria, which has so far shrugged off sanctions and verbal reprimands.

Residents on Thursday said about 40 tanks and troop carriers had deployed about 7 km (4 miles) from Jisr al-Shughour, a northwestern town of 50,000 where authorities say "armed gangs" killed more than 120 security personnel earlier this week.

Turkey's Red Crescent said it was setting up a second camp near the border to shelter people still crossing the border to escape the military build-up.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Thursday said 2,400 people had already crossed into Turkey.

"Jisr al-Shughour is practically empty. People were not going to sit and be slaughtered like lambs," said one refugee who crossed on Wednesday and who gave his name as Mohammad.


Turkish authorities have denied media access to the refugee camps, set in a picturesque valley. Behind the gates, rows of large white tents, could be seen some with washing strung between them, and children playing.

Syria has also barred most independent media from the country, making it difficult to verify accounts of the violence.

Assad, 45, has promised reforms, even while cracking down on unrest that has become the gravest threat to his 11-year rule. Friday prayers have been a focus of protests throughout the uprising.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog board reported Syria to the Security Council for covert atomic work, diplomats said on Thursday, a U.S.-led move coinciding with Western condemnations of Damascus' crackdown on opposition protests.

Russia and China voted against the proposal, probably ruling out any follow-up punitive measures.

(Additional reporting by Alexandra Hudson in Guvecci, Turkey, Yara Bayoumy in Beirut, Daren Butler in Istanbul, Keith Weir in London, Annika Breidthardt in Berlin, James Mackenzie in Rome and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Writing by Andrew Heavens)

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Comments (4)
fredmartello wrote:
Syria is a powder keg. Just as it was in 1982, when the Assad government massacred 10,000 of it’s own people! The torture and cruelty of the Syrian so called “security forces,” know no bounds, and pay no consequenses, and have been going for two generations pf the Assad father and son regimes.

Jun 09, 2011 10:49am EDT  --  Report as abuse
drmorocco wrote:
The Turkish should just machine gun them like the Israeli’s. The state department can just say that the loss of life is of concern and both sides should show restraint. (imagine a state department employee yawning and looking through a bowl of mixed nuts)

While the US State Department is issuing their statement, they will be drinking Mimosas, eating fruit and cheeze. I certainly hope their team (Redskins) does better this year than last.

How many dead Syrians? 100 or 200? Just appalling. Please pass the sweet and sour pork.

Jun 09, 2011 6:45pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
valwayne wrote:
Why does Obama have us in a war in Libya, which was no threat, supposedly because Gadhafi threatened civilians when the Assad regime in Syria is slaughtering thousands, maybe tens of thousands of democracy protestors? It makes no sense?

Jun 09, 2011 7:30pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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