Civil war in Syria puts Turkey on edge

 

ANTAKYA, Turkey

The intensifying violence in Syria raised alarm on the country's northern border Monday, as Turkey scrambled military jets after Syrian planes bombed rebels fighting on the frontier's edge while panicked civilians crawled across a barbed wire fence separating the two countries.

The incident in the Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn, though relatively minor, helps explain the tension created in Turkey by the conflict in Syria, which has brought the fighting so close to Turkish farming communities that residents routinely can hear the sound of bombs exploding.

It also underscored Turkey's eagerness to get Patriot missiles as a defensive measure, fearing the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad might deploy missiles with chemical warheads in a last-ditch effort to survive. People here worry that the missiles could spew poison into the air and waft into Turkey, or even stray into Turkish territory, as shells have on several occasions, including as recently as last weekend.

NATO meets Tuesday to decide whether to give the Patriots to Turkey, and Turkish officials have begun scouting potential locations for the missile systems, even though they may not be deployed for several weeks.

Conflicting reports emerged from Damascus, the Syrian capital, about the fate of the spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, Jihad Makdissi.

A statement Monday from the Foreign Ministry said Makdissi, who has strongly defended the government's actions in the civil war, was removed from his post but remained with the ministry. The announcement prompted speculation that he has defected.

But a friend of his reached by phone said that Makdissi was in London, where he once worked in Syria's diplomatic mission and owns a house. The friend said Makdissi was taking a break from the pressure of being the official face of the government in the media while having no security protection for himself or his family. The friend characterized Makdissi's absence as a "withdrawal" rather than a defection.

The frightening incident near Ras al-Ayn started mid-morning Monday, according to a resident of the nearby Turkish town of Ceylanpinar, who spoke by phone.

Opposition activists said a Syrian plane dropped two bombs on rebels in an area where Kurdish and Islamist rebel forces have recently clashed, roughly 300 yards from the border with Turkey. At least 10 people were reported killed, including three children. Turkish ambulances rushed to the border and civilians ran to safety in Turkey over a barbed-wire fence.

Meanwhile, Lebanon's state-run National News Agency reported that Lebanese soldiers in the Bekaa Valley fired into Syria after "armed men" shot at them from Syria on Sunday. There were no known casualties.

Fighting also continued around the Damascus' international airport, which the Syrian regime had announced on Sunday was open and running scheduled flights for the first time in three days. EgyptAir, however, cancelled a flight while en route from Cairo to Damascus on Monday and ordered it to turn around, citing the "bad security situation," the Reuters news agency reported.

The towns and suburbs around the airport have seen some of the fiercest fighting in recent days between government troops and opposition forces.

- - -

Washington Post special correspondent Suzan Haidamous in Beirut contributed to this report.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test