Syrian border attacks raise fears of conflict spreading


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The Independent Online

President Bashar al-Assad's forces yesterday launched provocative border assaults on neighbouring countries, in incidents that will stoke fears of the conflict spreading as a UN-brokered ceasefire lies in tatters.

The attacks by the Syrian army on targets in Turkey and Lebanon came amid one of the bloodiest days of violence for months, with 160 reported dead across Syria in unrelenting bombardments, further diminishing hopes for UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan, which stipulated that the Syrian government was to withdraw its troops from populated centres by 6am today, with a ceasefire within 48 hours.

Turkey reacted angrily after Syrian forces fired into a Turkish refugee camp in Kilis, which wounded two refugees, a Turkish interpreter and a policeman. Meanwhile, in Lebanon, Ali Shabaan, a 32-year-old cameraman for the Beirut-based Al Jadeed TV, was killed when his car was hit by a volley of bullets along Lebanese territory near the border, the channel said.

In Turkey, the incident at the Kilis camp – which has the capability to house 10,000 refugees – followed an early morning clash between members of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Syrian security forces near the Salama border gate close to the camp, according to activists. "I think the FSA wanted to control the border gate," said a Syrian refugee named Mahmoud Mosa, a former schoolteacher from northern Syria whose family is in the camp.

As violence raged on the at home, the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem arrived in Moscow ahead of meetings with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov today. Russia is under pressure from the international community to assert pressure on its ally to abide by the terms of Annan's peace plan, which Moscow has said it fully supports.

Mr Assad has been accused of stepping up his campaign of violence ahead of the ceasefire and violence raged across the country yesterday. Fifty-two of the 160 reported killed by yesterday evening died in the central city of Homs, where several neighbourhoods suffered intense shelling. At least 31 were reportedly killed in Hama and 30 in Aleppo.

Human Rights Watch has accused Syrian forces of more than 100 summary executions since March.