Gunfire from Syria injures refugees in Turkey

Tuesday, April 10, 2012
By Mehmet Guzel and Selcan Hacaoglu, AP

KILIS, Turkey--Syrian forces fired across the border Monday into a refugee camp in Turkey, wounding at least five people as a U.N.-brokered plan to end more than a year of violence this week all but collapsed, authorities said.

Syrian activists said two people were killed, but the reports could not be immediately confirmed.

The Syrian soldiers were believed to be firing at rebels who tried to escape to the refugee camp after ambushing a military checkpoint, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, citing a network of sources on the ground.

Turkey shelters thousands of refugees who have fled Syria as the government tries to crush a revolt against President Bashar Assad. The U.N. estimates some 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011, when the uprising began.

Monday's shooting bolstered fears that the uprising could spark a broad conflagration by sucking in neighboring countries. There have been similar cross-border attacks into Lebanon, although Monday's shooting was believed to be the first inside Turkey.

The incident began at about before dawn on Monday when rebel fighters attacked Syrian soldiers manning a checkpoint near the Turkish border, killing six soldiers, said Rami Abdul-Rahman, a spokesman for the Observatory.

The troops then kept firing as eight wounded rebels escaped to the camp that is just across the border in Turkey, sending bullets whizzing across the frontier into the camp, he said.

According to the Observatory, the shooting wounded five people in the camp, which is next to the Oncupinar border post near the town of Kilis in Gaziantep province. The Observatory reported that two people later died of their injuries, but that could not be immediately confirmed.

The province's governor, Yusuf Odabas, said five people were wounded: three Syrians, one Turkish translator and one Turkish policeman. The translator had entered the camp to try to help calm an anti-Assad protest, he said. The governor said Turkish military forces did not return fire.

The shooting prompted Ankara, which has been among Assad's harshest critics, to summon the Syrian charge d'affaires and call for an immediate halt to the gunfire.

Turkey hosts some 24,000 Syrian refugees, including hundreds of army defectors, and has floated the idea of setting up a buffer zone inside Syria if the flow of displaced people across its border becomes overwhelming.

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