Syrian Military Push Forces Hundreds More into Turkey

Posted June 23rd, 2011 at 11:05 am (UTC-5)
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Hundreds more refugees are pouring from Syria into Turkey as they try to escape advancing Syrian troops trying to crush a 3-month long political uprising.

The Turkish Red Crescent says at least 600 new refugees fled from the Syrian border town of Khirbet al-Jouz early Thursday after Syrian tanks rolled into the area backed up by foot soldiers.

The president of the Turkish agency, Tekin Kucukali, says Turkey is now hosting more than 11.000 Syrian refugees. Turkish officials estimate thousands more are near the border, poised to flee.

Kucukali said the Red Crescent is trying to meet the needs of the refugees, many of whom described fleeing the sound of gunfire and advancing tanks.

Also Thursday, the European Union hit Syria with new sanctions, adding another seven individuals to a list of people and entities under an EU asset freeze and travel ban.

Three of the individuals are Iranians. The Iranians and other newly-targeted individuals and companies are suspected of providing military equipment and support to the Syrian government.

Activists say Syria's crackdown on the 3-month-old opposition movement has killed at least 1,400 people.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem on Wednesday denounced EU sanctions, saying they represent an “act of war.”

Speaking at a news conference in Damascus, he said Syria “will forget Europe is on the map.” He also denied that Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah are helping Syria's government to crack down on the unrest.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said this week that he is willing to hold a national dialogue on possible reforms to parliamentary election laws, the media and Syria's constitution.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the offer does not have “much credibility” because the crackdown is continuing. Mr. Ban said U.N. Security Council action on the Syria crisis would be “helpful.”

Western powers also have dismissed Mr. Assad's comments.