Syrians flee town as troops approach


Turkey called on Syria on Wednesday to rein in violence against civilians and promised not to turn away refugees as some residents of a Syrian border town headed for the Turkish frontier in fear of a military assault. “Syria should change its attitude towards civilians and should take its attitude to a more tolerant level as soon as possible,” said Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who has had warm relations with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad’s govt has accused armed bands of killing scores of its security men in Jisr al-Shughour and has vowed to send in the army to carry out their “national duty to restore security”.
Accounts of the violence that began in the hilly town of Jisr al-Shughour on Friday vary, with officials saying gunmen ambushed troops and residents reporting an army mutiny. The bloodshed has triggered international alarm that Syria may be entering an even more violent phase after three months of popular unrest that has cost more than 1,000 lives. France and Britain, allies in the war against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, will put forward a UN Security Council resolution on Wednesday condemning Assad’s crackdown on protesters, British Prime Minister David Cameron said. “And if anyone votes against that resolution or tries to veto it, that should be on their conscience,” Cameron said.
The draft resolution condemns the repression and demands humanitarian access, Cameron said in London. But it was unclear how Russia, which holds a veto, would vote. Citing NATO’s inconclusive bombing of Tripoli, Moscow says it will not back intervention against Syria in the Security Council. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, at UN headquarters in New York, said it was “a question of days, maybe hours” before the Council voted on a resolution condemning Syria. A draft circulated last month does not propose military intervention.
At Jisr al-Shughour, home to tens of thousands of people, residents said they were taking cover and bracing for attacks. Some 120 men, women and children fled into Turkey overnight to seek refuge, the Anatolian news agency said. Erdogan, who has distanced himself from Assad since the Syrian uprising began, said Turkey would not “close its doors” to refugees fleeing Syria. Rami Abdulrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said troops had deployed in villages around Jisr al-Shughour, including Ariha to the east and on the main Latakia highway to the southwest. Residents said about 40 tanks and armoured vehicles were about 7 km (4 miles) from Jisr al-Shughour, which was now mostly empty, save for youth protesters. Ali Haj Abrahim said his son Bilal, who had volunteered to help the wounded at the weekend, was shot by security forces on Sunday on the outskirts of Jisr al-Shoughour.
“Two machinegun rounds tore through his chest and his left shoulder. He was 26 with a geography degree, married four months ago. His wife is pregnant,” Haj Ibrahim said. “We are not taking condolences. We consider his martyrdom a wedding for the defence of freedom,” he told Reuters. Abdulrahman said there were protests against Assad on Tuesday in suburbs of Damascus, including Harasta and Douma, and in Deir Al-Zor and Qamishli in the northeast. Pro-Assad rallies were also held in some of the capital’s suburbs.