Syria clashes near Turkey border leaves 26 dead: watchdog
BEIRUT: At least 16 Syrian soldiers and 10 rebels were killed on Thursday in heavy clashes in the northeastern town of Ras al-Ain near the Turkish border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) battalions stormed the majority Kurdish town after launching a two-pronged attack from across the border and the nearby Syrian village of Tal Half, the Britain-based watchdog said.
A local resident, Saad, told AFP by telephone that rebels overran the border post before dawn from the Turkish side and then launched attacks on security posts in Ras al-Ain.
Turkish media reported that five Turks were lightly wounded by stray bullets from Ras al-Ain, whose nearby border post is one of the last on the Syrian-Turkish border not under rebel control.
The Observatory, which relies on a countrywide network of activists, lawyers and medics in civilian and military hospitals, said that hundreds of rebels had converged on the town at dawn, while the army had sent up reinforcements.
Syrian state television reported that regime “troops killed dozens of terrorists who tried to attack Ras al-Ain” and the rebels then fled back across the border.
An activist from Ras al-Ain, who identified himself as Hevidar, said that clashes raged throughout the day as rebels fought for control of key security posts.
“There is still resistance from the air force intelligence and the military intelligence headquarters. The FSA is using loudspeakers to call on them to surrender and escape with their lives,” Hevidar told AFP via Skype.
“We know there are army tanks about 25 kilometres (15 miles) from Ras al-Ain. The FSA is planning to deploy snipers to the entrance of the city and have told people living on the road to Hasakeh to evacuate their homes, for fear of shelling.”
There were conflicting reports on whether fighters from the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) that is listed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey, fought alongside the rebels.
Saad, a local farmer, said that most of the town’s residents had fled across the border to Turkey or to nearby villages because of the fighting.
Shell fragments earlier hit a hospital in the border town of Ceylanpinar which lies across from Ras al-Ain, causing panic among residents, and local schools were closed for the day, Turkish daily Hurriyet said.
About 200 Syrians fled Ras al-Ain into Turkey, where local authorities have warned people to avoid the border, according to Hurriyet, which added that Turkish armed vehicles and artillery were sent to Ceylanpinar.