Number of Syrians Fleeing to Turkey Swells

Posted June 9th, 2011 at 12:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Turkey's foreign minister says the number of Syrians who have crossed into Turkey has swelled to 2,400, as Turkey is erecting encampments to handle the crisis.

Ahmet Davutoglu commented Thursday as Syrians in a northern border region continued to flee amid fears of government retaliation.

The refugees are looking to escape Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's weeks-long crackdown against anti-government protesters. Some say that black-clad gunmen have opened fire on protesters without warning.

The Syrian government accused 'armed gangs' in the border region of 'massacring' 120 security force members in recent days and vowed to take decisive action. There were media reports of Syrian forces moving to fortify positions in the north on Thursday.

In spite of the possible military retaliation, the French news agency says pro-democracy activists have again called Friday protests against President Assad.

Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts are unfolding at the United Nations.

Russia announced Thursday that it opposes a U.N. Security Council draft resolution condemning Syria for its crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevick says Syria's unrest does not pose a threat to world peace or security.

He commented a day after European members of the Security Council presented a revised draft resolution. The measure calls for an immediate end to the violence in Syria and for humanitarian access. It also urges Syria's government to enact genuine political reforms.

Separately, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has accused Syria of trying to “bludgeon its population into submission” with its crackdown on protesters. Navi Pillay said Thursday it is “utterly deplorable” for any government to deploy tanks, artillery and snipers against its people.

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

Also Thursday, the U.N.'s atomic watchdog agency increased its pressure on Syria. The International Atomic Energy Agency voted to refer Syria to the U.N. Security Council for alleged covert nuclear activity.