A new Human Rights Watch report charges that Syrian government forces killed at least 95 civilians and burned or destroyed hundreds of houses during a two-week offensive in northern Idlib governorate shortly before the current “ceasefire” took effect. The occurred in late March and early April, as UN special envoy Kofi Annan was negotiating with Damascus to end the fighting. (HRW, May 2) Fighting of course continues despite the supposed “ceasefire,” and the Turkish government warned May 2 that clashes are once again approaching the border zone between the two countries. Syrian government forces clashed with a group of army defectors who supposedly tried to seize territory near the Turkish border. Recalling the April 9 incident in which Syrian government forces fired on a refugee camp across the border at Oncupinar, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week invoked a threat of NATO intervention, warning: “If border violations continue in a way that disturbs us, we, as a member of NATO, will take the necessary steps.” (AP, May 3; The National, UAE, May 2)
A May 12 AP account notes fears that a sacred mausoleum guarded by Turkish troops along the Euphrates River in Turkish territory cold become a flashpoint for clashes. The memorial to Suleyman Shah—grandfather of Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire—continues to be secured by a small contingent of Turkish soldiers even as Ankara has shut its embassy in Damascus and is demanding that President Bashar Assad resign. Writes AP: “An article in the 1921 Franco-Turkish agreement lets Turkey keep guards and hoist its flag at the Syrian tomb, described as Turkish property. The arrangement was renewed with an independent Syria.” According to Wikipedia: “When the area where the tomb was located was flooded by Lake Assad, the reservoir of the Tabqa Dam, the tomb was moved to a new location north of Qal’at Ja’bar.”
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