Britons Asked to Leave Syria as Crisis Deepens

Posted June 18th, 2011 at 8:10 pm (UTC-5)
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The British Foreign Office is urging Britons in Syria to leave “immediately,” as the political crisis in the country continues to deteriorate.

In a travel advisory issued Saturday, British officials warned that it was “highly unlikely” the British embassy in the Syrian capital, Damascus, would be able to assist if the situation worsened.

The warning came as Syrian forces backed by tanks and firing heavy machine guns, stormed into a village near the Turkish border Saturday as part of the government's widening crackdown on dissent.

Rights activists and witnesses say troops with tanks and armored personnel carriers swept into Bdama, where they arrested at least 70 people. Witnesses say the forces set at least two houses on fire.

Bdama is a short distance from the Turkish border. One activist with the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the town's residents had been helping refugees as they fled across the border to makeshift tent encampments in Turkey. More than 10,000 Syrian refugees are now staying there in a vast landscape of white tents.

Meanwhile, Lebanon deployed soldiers in the northern city of Tripoli on Saturday after deadly clashes erupted following a rally in support of Syria's opposition.

The clashes on Friday left seven people dead and 25 wounded. Residents from a Sunni Muslim neighborhood in Tripoli fought with those from a neighborhood inhabited by members of the Shi'ite Alawite sect, which includes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's family.

Also, the United States said it is considering whether war crimes charges can be brought against Mr. Assad as part of a larger diplomatic effort to get his government to end its crackdown on dissent.

Rights activists and witnesses say more than 1,400 civilians have been killed since mid-March and 10,000 detained.