Syrian Refugees Continue to Flee to Turkey

Posted June 13th, 2011 at 1:45 pm (UTC-5)
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More Syrians fled across the border to Turkey Monday, with activists saying nearly 7,000 have run from the military violence in and around a rebellious northern city seized by Syrian troops over the weekend.

Syrian state media said government soldiers, backed by helicopter gunships and tanks, took control of Jisr al-Shughour Sunday after defusing explosives planted by gunmen on roads and bridges. It said one soldier and two armed men were killed in clashes around the town.

The government has accused “armed gangs” in Jisr al-Shughour of killing security personnel. Residents say violence escalated when soldiers there attacked other soldiers and police who had defected and refused to shoot protesters.

Neighboring Turkey, about 20 kilometers from Jisr al-Shughour, has provided sanctuary to thousands of refugees fleeing the fighting. Residents say thousands more have sought shelter in Syrian villages near the border.

The Obama administration condemned the continuing Syrian crackdown on Monday. U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner called Libya's use of tanks and helicopters on its own people “absolutely revolting.” White House press secretary Jay Carney called on Syria to “engage in political dialogue” with government opponents.

Also Monday, state media reported that Syria has imposed a travel ban on a cousin of the president while they investigate the bloodshed in the southern flashpoint city of Daraa.

Brigadier General Atef Najib ran the security department in Daraa, where the uprising erupted in March after authorities arrested 15 teenagers suspected of writing anti-government graffiti.

Western nations have strongly condemned the increasingly brutal repression in Syria, including the use of heavy weapons in Jisr al-Shughour.

U.N. diplomats have held talks on a draft resolution condemning the violence, but they have failed to reach agreement. Many Western nations support the measure, but Russia and China have voiced opposition.

Rights groups say more than 1,300 people have been killed in the Syrian crackdown that began in March and more than 10,000 people have been arrested.