Sat, October 13, 2012

Blasts, clashes continue in Syria as tension gains momentum with Turkey

2012-10-13 21:44:35 GMT2012-10-14 05:44:35(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

DAMASCUS, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) -- Blasts and clashes continued in several Syrian hotspots on Saturday, as the tension between Syria and Turkey keeps gaining momentum.

At least nine people were killed Saturday when a car bomb blasted at a suburb of the capital Damascus, activists said, adding that a child and two women were among the killed. The blast that rocked al-Nabek also left 13 people injured.

Another explosive device went off in central Damascus overnight Saturday, killing one civilian, media reports said, adding that the explosive device had been hidden at a garage in the upscale al- Qassa'a district.

Earlier in the day, the pro-government Sham FM said at least 111 armed men were killed Saturday during clashes with the Syrian troops in the northern city of Aleppo and the coastal city of Latakia.

The Syrian troops killed 11 armed men who had tried to enter al- Nabi Ynus area in the countryside of Latakia, the report said, adding that the confrontation led to the killing of one army soldier.

It said the Syrian troops carried a "qualitative" operation at Qastal Harami area in Aleppo Saturday, killing 80 armed men.

Also in Aleppo, 20 armed men were killed Saturday by the Syrian troops at Bab al-Hadid area, the report said.

Aleppo has emerged as the main battleground between the Syrian regular army and the rebel Free Syrian Army, who has been trying for months to win control over the crucial northern slice of Syria.

Meanwhile, Syria's state media said the government troops cleansed Saturday the Hsaibieh town in the central town of al- Qusair from armed insurgents, adding that the clashes have resulted in a large number of casualties among the armed groups.

In separate accounts, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based activist network, alleged that the armed rebels have downed a Syrian fighter jet in the western countryside of Aleppo. Another activists' network, the Local Coordination Committees, placed the death toll of Saturday's grinding violence at 125.

As violence grinds on, the tension between Syria and Turkey has also kept gaining momentum despite the international efforts, especially from Russia, to pacify the situation between both countries.

The Syrian government issued a ban on Saturday, prohibiting the Turkish civilian flights to pass over the Syrian territories, according to the Syrian Foreign Ministry.

The ministry said the ban will go into effect as of midnight Saturday, adding that the move has come in retaliation to a similar move undertaken by Turkey, which prohibited Syrian civilian flights to pass through Turkey.

In its statement, the ministry said it laments the Turkish " escalatory decision that aims primarily to hurt the interests of the Syrian people."

The tension between both countries has hit a new high Wednesday when the Turkish government forcefully grounded a Syrian civilian plane, which was en route from Moscow to Damascus, under the pretext that the plane carried "non-civilian cargo."

The Turks alleged that the Syrian flight carried Russian military gears distended for the Syrian ministry of defense.

Both Syria and Russia chided the Turkish move and dismissed the statement made by the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyep Erdogan, who said that Russian military gears were confiscated and that they were Syria-bound.

Furthermore, the Syrian Information Ministry challenged Erdogan on Thursday to display the confiscated gears on public to prove his claims.

However, and in an apparent bid to quell the simmering tension, Syria extended its welcome on Saturday to the Russian proposal of establishing a channel for security communication with Turkey, the Syrian foreign ministry said.

The ministry said it had discussed with Russian Ambassador to Syria, Azmat Allah Kolmahmedov, Syria's readiness to establish a Syrian-Turkish joint security committee that would be tasked with finding mechanisms to control the security situation on the border in the framework of respecting the sovereignty of both Syria and Turkey.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has recently proposed the establishment of a communication channel between Syria and Turkey after the tension has heightened between the two countries over the past month, most notably after the mutual cross-border firing.

Ankara has gotten its hands way deep into the Syrian crisis over the past year, by providing the Syrian rebels with safe havens and securing safe passages to extremists into Syria through its territories. Such role would rebound negatively on Turkey itself and its role in the region, analysts warned.


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