Turkish flag lowered, Syrian army at border as tension escalates in region


Syrian refugees pass Turkish military vehicles as they cross the border at a crossing point near the village of Güveççi in Hatay on Thursday. Syrian activists claimed that troops backed by tanks and snipers have entered a village along the Turkish border as the regime expands its crackdown on a pro-democracy movement that has posed the gravest challenge to Assad’s rule.
Thursday was not short of action on the Turkish-Syrian border as Syrian troops made a move to enter a village along the Turkish border, backed by tanks and snipers. The Local Coordination Committees of Syria (LCC), which are tracking the Syrian protest movement, said Thursday that tanks had entered Khirbet al-Jouz and snipers were spotted on rooftops, the Associated Press reported.
Information gathered by Today’s Zaman from the region showed that the number of Syrians who had fled to Turkey recently was around 600, bringing the total number of refugees up to 10,824 as of Thursday. The uprisings have proved to be most challenging for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who gave a speech earlier this week promising new reforms in a bid to ease the rising tension in the country. Today’s Zaman was also informed that Syrian troops, who have been increasing in number along the Turkish-Syrian border, had destroyed deserted villages in Syria.

They are also reportedly patrolling the border area in order to prevent more people from fleeing the country. A Turkish flag that was recently raised on a tower in the Syrian side of the border was lowered and replaced with a Syrian flag by Syrian soldiers on Thursday, causing tensions to escalate. Officials from either side did not comment.

Due to yesterday’s increased tension, Syrians who crossed the border to Turkey to run routine daily errands chose to wait it out in Turkey’s border village of Güvecçi before going back. They watched the actions of Syrian troops closely from the roofs of the houses in the area before making sure the situation had calmed down.

The Turkish authorities are now allowing the Syrian refugees to leave tent cities under police supervision in order to go to nearby towns and shop in local stores. Yesterday, refugees staying at the Yaylada?? tent city were taken to the city in groups and had the chance to look around and shop. Some shop owners did not charge the Syrian refugees for their purchases as it is a common tradition in Turkey to not charge guests.

The groups stayed in the city for around two hours before they returned to the camps.

Today’s Zaman was also informed that there are now designated tents set up at the tent cities for people to visit their relatives. The visitors are required to show proof of kinship and register their names before they are allowed to see their relatives.

There is fear among the Syrian refugees that they are being tracked by the Mukhabarat, the Syrian intelligence service. They even say they feel scared of talking to their relatives when they come to visit them.

“The Mukhabarat hires a lot of people and it has so many recruits in the area. So we even fear being spotted talking to ordinary Turks as I suspect there are a few of them among the refugees,” Ibrahim, a Syrian refugee, told Today’s Zaman, while hiding his face and turning his back to the tent city.

Ibrahim eventually wants to return to Syria, where he left his siblings and relatives behind. “I worry about them,” he says.

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