Conflict & Justice

Syria: Conflict continues to spill over into Turkey


Turkish soldiers stand guard in Akcakale by the Turkish-Syria border on Oct, 4, 2012.


Bulent Kilic

HACIPASA, Turkey — The Syrian conflict spilled further into Turkey on Friday when a group of Syrian army soldiers, fleeing a rebel assault, escaped over the Turkish border.

An estimated 55 Syrian soldiers darted across the border near the southern Turkish town of Hapicasa, witnesses told GlobalPost. A Turkish property owner said that Free Syrian Army fighters located in Hapicasa captured 10 of the Syrian soldiers and turned them over to Turkish authorities. The whereabouts of the remaining soldiers, all of which still had their weapons, remained unknown.

The Syrian soldiers appeared to be trying to escape the latest fighting in the Syrian town of Azmarin, which rebel forces recently captured.

Also on Friday, a Syrian helicopter flew close to the Turkish border, prompting Turkey to scramble two F-16 fighter jets. No fire was exchanged and both sides soon withdrew.

More from GlobalPost: Complete Coverage from Inside Syria

Tensions between Turkey and Syria have soared since an errant shell from Syria landed on the Turkish border town of Akcakale on Oct. 4, killing five Turkish citizens.

Turkey quickly retaliated for the incursion. Turkish parliament authorized military action inside Syria shortly after and the Turkish military has consistently shelled Syrian Army positions near the border since.

The Turkish military has moved to shore up the border, sending tanks and soldiers to try and create a buffer zone between the fighting in Syria and Turkish towns.
But with so many border crossings between the two countries, it remains possible for rebels, refugees and others to cross back and forth undetected.

While the Syrian conflict, now in its 18th month, began as an Arab Spring-style protest movement against President Bashar al-Assad, it has since morphed into an armed civil war that has drawing the attention of regional players.

Some Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are openly funding the armed rebellion. Iran and Russia, meanwhile, have continued to support the Assad government, supplying weapons and vetoing any moves for international intervention at the United Nations.

Turkey, which shares a long border with Syria, has taken in more than hundred thousand Syrian refugees, as well as numerous Syrian Army defectors. The Syrian National Council, a coalition of political opposition groups, is based in Istanbul.

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Syrian fighting has also spilled over the border with Lebanon. A flood of refugees has also burdened Jordan, which is dealing with its own simmering protest movement.

On Wednesday, Turkish tensions with neighboring Russia also flared when Turkish authorities grounded a Syrian Air plane bound for Damascus that they said was carrying Russian ammunition meant for the Syrian regime. Russia denied the plane was carrying illegal cargo.