Syrian Refugees Fleeing Threats Enter Turkey

Posted June 8th, 2011 at 6:30 am (UTC-5)
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A group of 122 Syrian refugees has crossed into neighboring Turkey, as civilians flee a restive border town following a government vow to respond “decisively” to recent violence.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Wednesday his country will not close its door to refugees fleeing the unrest, after the group entered Turkey near the town of Karbeyaz.

Syria has accused “armed gangs” of “massacring” 120 of its security men. Residents and activists disputed the official account, saying fighting erupted between members of the security forces when soldiers began to switch sides and join protesters after days of bloody crackdowns.

Other reports said Syrian civilians also took up arms to defend themselves, with some giving medical care to the defectors.

Neither version of events could be independently verified because foreign journalists are not allowed in Syria.

The region near the Turkish border has become the most recent flashpoint in a widespread anti-government uprising with protesters calling for an end to President Bashar al-Assad's 11-year authoritarian rule.

Meanwhile, Syria's ambassador to France has denied she is resigning her post, after a French television channel said she had quit. Lamia Shakkour said Wednesday that a telephone interview broadcast by France 24 television with a woman claiming to be her was false.

France 24 later said it did not rule out a “manipulation,” and if that is the case it will pursue legal action against those responsible.

France's foreign minister said Tuesday it is “inconceivable” that the United Nations Security Council has remained silent on the escalating crackdown in Syria.

Alain Juppe told reporters at the U.N. that France is working with Britain and other European allies to gather majority support for a resolution condemning Syrian violence against civilians. He said a date to vote on the issue would be set in “days, maybe hours.”

A draft circulated last month does not propose military intervention. Still, Russia said Tuesday it would veto a resolution against Syria in the U.N. Security Council.

In London, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Mr. Assad needs to “reform or step aside.” U.S. President Barack Obama and his top officials have made similar statements urging the Syrian leader to transition to democracy or “get out.”

Rights groups say at least 1,100 people have been killed in the government's crackdown against the anti-government campaign that began in March. More than 10,000 people have been arrested.