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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Syria continues to basically dare Turkey to intervene by bombing a village yards from the border


Syria continues to basically dare Turkey to intervene by bombing a village yards from the border. 

Syria Presses Bombardment of Border Town

Osman Orsal/Reuters
The Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, bordering Turkey, was bombed for the second day on Tuesday.
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GAZIANTEP, Turkey — Syria pulled Turkey and Israel closer to military entanglements in its civil war on Tuesday, bombing a rebel-held Syrian village a few yards from the Turkish border for the second straight day after Israeli tank commanders in the disputedGolan Heights blasted a mobile Syrian artillery unit across their own armistice line on Monday.
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The New York Times
Syria has escalated its civil war near Turkey and Israel.
Osman Orsal/Reuters
Syrian rebels fired an anti-aircraft artillery weapon in Ras al-Ain on Tuesday.
The escalations involving two of Syria’s most powerful neighbors came hours after the fractious Syrian opposition announced a broad new unity pact that elicited praise from the big foreign powers backing its effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad. There has been speculation that Mr. Assad, feeling increasingly threatened, may deliberately seek to widen the conflict that has consumed much of his country for the last 20 months, leaving roughly 40,000 people dead, millions of civilians internally displaced and over 400,000 people registered as refugees in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. Although there was no indication that Mr. Assad was trying to lure Israel into the fight, any Israeli involvement could rally his failing support and frustrate the efforts of his Arab adversaries.
Relief agencies meanwhile warned on Tuesday of a growing humanitarian crisis, with about 2.5 million people driven from their homes throughout the conflict, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency, which cited citing estimates from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, the principal local partner delivering relief for international agencies.
Previous assessments said 1.2 million people were displaced by the civil war, but even the new figure might not capture the full extent of the crisis.
“People are really on the run, hiding,” Melissa Fleming, the spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in Geneva on Tuesday. “They are difficult to count and difficult to access.”
 More than 4,000 Syrians had fled to Jordan in the past week, the highest weekly  outflow there in two months, Ms. Fleming said, in addition to some 9,000 Syrians who crossed last week into Turkey. Increasing numbers of Kurdish Syrians were escaping to Iraq which is now hosting more than 50,000 Syrian refugees, she said.
 As further evidence of widening violence, Ms. Fleming said the United Nations refugee agency was withdrawing some of its staff from the northeastern governorate of Hassakeh. On Monday, an attack on the Turkish border, by what Syrian witnesses identified as a Syrian MIG-25 warplane, demolished at least 15 buildings and killed at least 20 people in the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, the scene of heavy fighting for days and an impromptu crossing point for thousands of Syrians clambering for safety in Turkey.
On Tuesday, a Syrian jet attacked near the town again, killing one person and wounding three, according to an official on the Turkish side of the border quoted by The Associated Press.
The Turkish authorities, increasingly angered by what they view as Syrian provocations, have deployed troops and artillery units along the 550-mile border with Syria and have raised the idea of installing Patriot missile batteries that could deter Syrian military aircraft.
Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, sent a diplomatic note to Syria on Monday to protest the first Ras al-Ain bombing, the semiofficial Anatolian News Agency reported.
Civilians in southern Turkey’s provinces of Hatay, Sanliurfa and Gaziantep, where the government has erected camps for Syrian refugees, have been advised not to travel close to the border.
The United Nations, which monitors an armistice agreement between Israel and Syria in force since the 1973 war, has said it feared that Golan violence could jeopardize the cease-fire.
In Israel, the military said Israeli tanks that are deployed in the Golan Heights, which the Israelis seized from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, had made a direct hit on a Syrian mobile artillery launcher on Monday after consecutive days of erratic mortar fire coming from the Syrian side of the armistice line.
Military officials and analysts in Israel said that they viewed the shelling by the Syrian government forces as unintentional spillover and that Israel had no desire to get involved in the Syria conflict.
But some Israelis said that after four decades of relative stability in the Golan area, the Assad government may be trying to push them into a fight that could galvanize Arab hostility toward Israel and distract attention from its own problems.
Others said Mr. Assad was unlikely to want to provoke Israel, afraid of a crushing response that could weaken him militarily.
In Doha, Qatar, where Syrian opposition figures had been meeting since last week, the agreement reached Sunday on forming a new umbrella organization, which could become the basis for a provisional government, was welcomed by participants and the effort’s foreign backers, including Turkey, the United States, the European Union and the Arab League.
There were expectations that the new group, called the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, would be permitted to take Syria’s seat at the Arab League, which expelled Mr. Assad’s representative.
Sebnem Arsu reported from Gaziantep, and Rick Gladstone from New York. Isabel Kershner contributed reporting from Jerusalem, Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva, Hania Mourtada and Hwaida Saad from Beirut, Lebanon, and Richard Berry from Paris.

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