Turkey closes border to Syria traffic


Syrian soldiers celebrate in the Midan area of Damascus on July 20, 2012. Syrian regime forces routed rebel fighters from the Damascus neighborhood, causing many residents to flee for the countryside.


Louai Beshara

Turkey today shut its massive border with Syria to all traffic, cutting off an important weapons and supply route used by the nation's embattled president as he seeks to crush the 16-month uprising against his rule, reported the Associated Press

Weapons being used by President Bashar al-Assad are mostly moved through the Turkish border, while rebels leading the anti-government revolt are thought to use mostly smuggling routes, said AP. Violence between the two sides has left some 17,000 dead, Syrian activists say, while thousands more have taken refuge in neighboring Turkey and Damascus. 

Today's decision is not expected to affect refugees, who generally come by way of smuggling routes instead of attempting to cross the 566-mile-long Turkish-Syrian border, said Reuters

More from GlobalPost: Down and out in Damascus

Turkish Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazici told AP that dozens of Turkish trucks were ransacked or set on fire last week when Syrian rebels took over a border crossing.

The move comes as clashes enter their fifth day in Aleppo, a city near the Turkish border. Rebel forces on Saturday launched an offensive to take control of the city, which is the nation's largest, said AP.

Fighting there is part of a fresh escalation in violence throughout Syria after key members of Assad's inner circle were killed in a bold Damascus attack last week. 

The possibility that Syria will use chemical weapons, meanwhile, continues to be a subject of concern. On Tuesday, Syria's foreign ministry admitted for the first time that the nation has chemical weapons but said they are kept in reserve for "external aggressors."