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Syria’s Assad accuses Turkey of arming rebels

Syrian refugees watch as Turkish troops patrol the area north of the border.

The regime of President Bashar Assad has acknowledged increasing attacks on its military believed aided by neighboring Turkey.

Syrian officials said a rebel force of up to 500 fighters attacked a Syrian Army position on June 4 in northern Syria. They said the target, a garrison of Military Intelligence, was captured in a 36-hour assault in which 72 soldiers were killed in Jisr Al Shoughour, near the border with Turkey.

“We found that the criminals [rebel fighters] were using weapons from Turkey, and this is very worrisome,” an official said.

This marked the first time that the Assad regime has accused Turkey of helping the revolt. The Ankara government has become increasingly critical of Assad and said the president has one week to end his crackdown against the opposition.

Officials said the rebels drove the Syrian Army from Jisr Al Shoughour and then took over the town. They said government buildings were looted and torched before another Assad force arrived.

At one point, the Assad regime conducted a tour for journalists of Jisr Al Shoughour. Officials showed journalists a mass grave that was said to contain the bodies of soldiers.

A Syrian officer who conducted the tour said the rebels in Jisr Al Shoughour consisted of Al Qaida-aligned fighters. He said the rebels employed a range of Turkish weapons and ammunition but did not accuse the Ankara government of supplying the equipment.

Western diplomatic sources said rebel fighters have been attacking Assad’s military in both northern and southern Syria. They said the rebels were being supplied by Sunnis from neighboring Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

“With every passing day, the Sunnis in the Syrian military are growing more uneasy,” a diplomat said. “The Sunni senior commanders are still loyal, but the field commanders, particularly on the level of squad and companies, are feeling the pressure to defect.”

Opposition sources have reported a breakdown in law and order throughout Syria. The Kurdish opposition Democratic Union Party has reported a rebellion in Hasaka prison, which resulted in a fire in the facility.

“The prison may be under the control of the prisoners, but the building is surrounded by security forces,” the party said.

World Tribune

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