Syria fires upon neighbours Turkey and Lebanon
President Bashar al-Assad's forces launched border assaults on neighbouring countries yesterday, stoking fears that the conflict will spread as a UN-brokered ceasefire lies in tatters.
The Syrian army fired into Turkey and Lebanon during one of the bloodiest days of violence for months in which 130 were reported dead across Syria. The unrelenting bombardments further diminished hopes for the peace plan proposed by the UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, under which the Syrian government would withdraw its troops from towns by 6am this morning, and cease firing within 48 hours.
Turkey reacted angrily after Syrian forces fired into a Turkish refugee camp in Kilis, wounding two refugees, a Turkish interpreter and a policeman. The Syrian chargé d'affaires in Ankara was summoned to the Turkish foreign ministry where officials demanded an explanation. Turkey's deputy foreign minister said on state television that the Annan plan was “void at this stage”.
In Lebanon Ali Shabaan, a 32-year-old cameraman for the Beirut-based Al Jadeed TV, was killed when his car was raked by bullets near the border, the channel said. Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who has been careful to stay neutral over the Syrian conflict, released an unusually blunt statement demanding the perpetrators be held to account.
“We deplore and condemn the shooting from the Syrian side on the Lebanese media crew,” he said.
Ahmed Wehbi, an assistant producer with Al Jadeed TV, said Mr Shabaan, another cameraman and a reporter were filming near the border when the Syrian army fired on them at around noon yesterday.
“We are all in shock,” he said.
In Turkey the incident at the Kilis camp, which can 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.
Tension between Turkey and Syria has been intensifying and a day earlier Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had said Turkey would “implement steps” if today's UN ceasefire were ignored.
Mr Erdogan did not elaborate further but Turkish officials said they had drafted contingency plans to set up a “buffer zone” inside Syrian territory, for which a number of troops would have to be committed.