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Turkey sends troops to border along Syria
Turkey said Thursday it was positioning anti-aircraft batteries along its border with Syria following the downing of one of Turkey’s warplanes by Syrian forces.
Turkey’s state broadcaster, TRT, ran video of military trucks carrying anti-aircraft guns, a rocket launcher and troops heading to border areas near Hatay where thousands of Syrians have fled from the increasing violence in the popular uprising against President Bashar Assad, The New York Times reported.
Other military equipment and personnel were deployed along the border settlement of Suruc, joining units near Mursitpinar, as well as in the coastal town of Iskenderun, TRT said.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Tuesday said Turkey changed its rules of engagement toward Syria, warning Assad “every military element that approaches the Turkish border from Syria in a manner that constitutes a security risk or danger would be considered as a threat and would be treated as a military target.”
A Turkish warplane was shot down under dubious circumstances off the Syrian coast about a week ago. The Turkish government said the plane was over international waters while Syrian officials said it was approaching the Syrian coast.
Omran al-Zoubi, Syria’s information minister, was quoted as telling a Turkish broadcaster Syrian anti-aircraft gunners could have mistaken the Turkish plane for an Israeli one because the two countries’ aircraft “look like each other.” Israel and Turkey use U.S.-designed warplanes.
Zoubi said Syria did not want a confrontation with Turkey, a NATO member that has alliance support in its dispute with Syria concerning the downed plane.
Meanwhile U.N.-Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan, whose all-but-ignored peace plan is in danger of failing, announced Wednesday he would convene an “action group” meeting of influential countries in Geneva, Switzerland, Saturday to try to revive the six-point plan. However, Iran, a strong regional ally of Assad, and Saudi Arabia, a prominent supporter of Assad’s foes, weren’t invited, the Times said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed to the Syrian-crisis meeting after Iran and Saudi Arabia were excluded, officials said.
The meeting will include the five permanent U.N. Security Council members — the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China — Annan’s office said.
Russia and China are Syrian allies.
Invitations were sent to Turkey, the U.N. and Arab League secretaries-general and Iraqi, Kuwaiti and Qatari foreign ministers, who chair Arab League committees concerned with Syria.
Washington has opposed Iran’s involvement in the process — contending Tehran aided and abetted Assad’s harsh repression in the 16-month-old conflict — and Clinton said she would not attend if Iran was there. Moscow has accused Saudi Arabia of funding and supplying weapons to Syrian rebels.
Syria said rebels stormed a pro-regime TV station in a Damascus suburb Wednesday, killing seven employees and blowing up the station in a predawn assault.
Rebels contradicted the regime account, saying the attackers were defectors from the Syrian army’s elite Republican Guard, widely considered Assad’s most loyal core of defenders.
The attack on the al-Ikhbaria satellite broadcaster was attacked by assailants who”planted explosive devices” in the TV station’s headquarters “following their ransacking and destroying of the satellite channel studios, including the newsroom studio, which was entirely destroyed,” the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported.
Three journalists and four security workers were killed when the armed men stormed the building in the town of Drousha, SANA said.
Free Syrian Army spokesman Col. Malik Kurdi told the Times the attack resulted from defections of Republican Guard members who changed sides and attacked other loyalist guards at the station.
There was no way to independently confirm Kurdi’s claim.
Amnesty International, which has condemned Syrian regime attacks that have left more than 10,000 dead since the uprising against Assad began in March 2011, criticized the assault as a “civilian target” attack.
Reporters Without Borders said, “News organizations should not be used as targets by the parties to the conflict.”
Across Syria, at least 54 other people were killed in fresh violence Wednesday, the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
A U.N. Human Rights Council panel investigating rights violations in Syria said it could not determine conclusively who was responsible for the May 25 massacre of 108 civilians in Houla in western Syria, but it “considers that forces loyal to the government may have been responsible for many of the deaths,” the Times said
Investigators accused government forces of committing violations on “an alarming scale” in recent months, but also found both sides carried out summary executions.
Copyright 2012 by United Press International