UN Chief Warns of Escalating Syria Conflict Dangers

Posted October 8th, 2012 at 1:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Turkey launched a new retaliatory strike Monday after a mortar bomb fired from Syria hit the Turkish countryside as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned of “extremely dangerous” fallout from the escalating border conflict.

Mr. Ban also said he is “deeply concerned” about the continuing flow of weapons to the Syrian government and opposition forces and the impact of the Syrian crisis on neighboring Lebanon. He reiterated calls for a political solution, which he said is the “only way” to resolve the crisis that began in March of last year.

The Turkish strike against Syrian positions for the sixth straight day came after a shell landed in a Turkish border area in southern Hatay province. Turkish President Abdullah Gul said Monday that “worst-case scenarios” were taking place in Syria and urged the international community to act.

But VOA's Scott Bobb reports from the Turkish-Syria border that Turkish public opinion is generally against military action, especially a unilateral push from Ankara.

“Opinion polls show that a great many Turks oppose a military incursion into Syria, and there's even now some debate in parliament and among the political parties over just how much to get involved in this: 'is this dragging Turkey down, is this risking Turkish stability?'”

Bobb traveled through mostly rebel-held territory in northwest Syria on Monday and found opposition supporters – who have endured months of brutal conflict – clamoring for foreign help.

“Among the rebels and their supporters, they want intervention. They're asking why hasn't the international community done something to help us. We're being bombed and mortared and we have no defenses against aerial attacks.”

Bobb said rebel fighters have suffered mainly from bullet wounds, but that civilians have sustained “the most gruesome casualties from shrapnel and bombings.”

Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported more than 60 people were killed in clashes across Syria Monday, including 20 in southern Daraa province when the army launched an intensive assault on the town of Karak.

The opposition group said Monday's death toll includes 31 unarmed civilians, 18 government troops and 11 rebel fighters. The Observatory gathers its data from a network of activists, medics and lawyers on the ground in Syria.

Syrian forces also continued to pound rebel-held areas in central Homs province, and an army official said the military is now focused on taking back the town itself – referred to by activists as the “capital of the revolution.”

The state-run SANA news agency reported that government forces killed “scores of terrorists” in the northern city of Aleppo. The Syrian government refers to rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as “terrorists.”

As the fighting continued, the head of Syria's opposition national council, Abdulbaset Sieda, told Arab TV channels that his group would soon meet in Qatar to discuss various political proposals.

He said the council would consider all proposals on the table to unite efforts and work for a political transition, adding that officials who defected and have no blood on their hands are free to participate in the discussions.

Sieda said someone “who has been with the revolution since it began” should lead the transition.

On Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davotoglu proposed that Vice President Farouk al Sharaa should lead an interim government.