Sun, Aug 12, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Clash with Jordan forces intensifies Syrian conflict

FROM BAD TO WORSE:The situation in Syria escalated when fighting with neighbor Jordan broke out, stoking fears that the violence will spread throughout the region

Reuters, ALEPPO, Syria, and Amman

A girl with the words “There is no god but Allah” written on her forehead attends an anti-government demonstration in Bennish, on the outskirts of Idlib Province, Syria, on Friday.

Photo: Reuters

Fighting broke out between Jordanian and Syrian forces in a border region between the two countries overnight, but a Jordanian source said yesterday no one on Jordan’s side appeared to have been killed.

A Syrian opposition activist who witnessed the fighting said armored vehicles were involved in the clash in the Tel Shihab-Turra area, about 80km north of the Jordanian capital, Amman, that occurred after Syrian refugees tried to cross into Jordan.

“The Syrian side fired across the border and fighting ensued. Initial reports indicate that there has been no one killed from the Jordanian side,” the Jordanian source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Jordanian troops have fired near the border in the past to stop Syrians from shooting at fleeing refugees.

Western nations and regional powers fear the Syrian conflict could spill into neighboring countries.

The 17-month uprising has turned into a civil war with a sectarian angle that has the West lining up with Sunni Muslim nations behind the mainly Sunni rebels and against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a member of the Alawite minority sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Syria’s long border with Jordan has been an escape route for opponents of al-Assad, including former Syrian prime minister Riad Hijab, who defected this week.

In Syria’s largest city and commercial hub Aleppo, rebels fighting al-Assad’s forces said they would hit back after losing ground under heavy bombardment. Residents in the city of 2.5 million have been fleeing in cars crammed with belongings.

The rebels have been pushed back from the Salaheddine district, which controls the approach to the city. They surged into both Aleppo and the capital Damascus last month in their boldest offensive of the uprising.

Al-Assad’s forces have repelled the rebels from Damascus, but are having a harder time dislodging them from Aleppo.

“I have about 60 men positioned strategically at the front line and we are preparing a new attack today,” said Abu Jamil, a rebel commander near Salaheddine.

Sniper fire had prevented his men from retrieving a comrade’s body for two days, he said.

Journalists saw residents stream from Aleppo on Friday, seizing on a calm spell to pack vehicles with mattresses, fridges and toys. At least two air force planes and a drone flew overhead.

Some Salaheddine residents slipped back into the shattered neighborhood to try to salvage possessions, despite army snipers. Two civilians were hit by gunfire in nearby streets.

In an apparent effort to project an air of normalcy, state television screened footage from Friday of a calm Aleppo, including images of its ancient citadel — a UN World Heritage site — and cars flowing freely around a traffic circle.

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.

Al-Assad is trying to crush the revolt against his family’s 42-year rule in the pivotal Arab country. His mostly Sunni foes are backed by Sunni-led states like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

The US imposed another round of sanctions on Friday that targeted Syria’s state-run oil company Sytrol for trading with Iran, and the Lebanese Shiite 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.

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