Turkey deploys heavy weapons to Syrian border

 Turkey deploys heavy weapons to Syrian border

Turkey's military deployed armoured vehicles and heavy weaponry to the border with Syria on Saturday. (Photo: AA)

September 23, 2012, Sunday/ 10:11:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN WITH WIRES

Turkey's military deployed armored vehicles and heavy weaponry to the border with Syria on Saturday, near a crossing that has seen intense fighting between opposition fighters and government forces, local media said.

The deployment is reportedly in an area where earlier this week Turkish civilians were wounded when stray bullets and shelling crossed the border from the Syrian province of al-Raqqa.

CNN Turk television said artillery fire had landed close to the Turkish border overnight, causing panic among local residents.

The Turkish army moved three Howitzers and one anti-aircraft weapon to the border, the channel said.

Turkey, a member of NATO, has conducted a number of troop deployments in recent months along its 911-kilometer (566-mile) border with Syria, where opposition fighters are fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been an outspoken critic of Assad's handling the uprising that has killed an estimated 27,000 people since it began as a peaceful protest in March 2011.

Akçakale Mayor Abdulhakim Ayhan said his district has been negatively affected as clashes between the army and the opposition fighters intensify. Ayhan said the armed opposition seized control of the Tel Abyad border gate and then moved on to take control of the police department and intelligence buildings in al-Raqqa.

He confirmed that bullets and mortars frequently fall in central Akçakale district and its villages. He said one mortar recently hit an area between Arıcan and Gülveren villages where security forces are deployed. He added that people are anxious over the fighting on the Syrian side and fear that they could be hit at  any time by a stray bullet.  

Meanwhile, at least 550 Syrians, including two Syrian generals and one colonel who defected, crossed into Turkey on Sunday, fleeing the violence in Syria. There are at least 16 wounded among the refugees.

The refugees, who fled to Turkey through Bükülmez village in Hatay's Reyhanlı district, were sent to the Reyhanlı camp in Hatay. Three defectors, however, were taken to the Apaydın camp. Some of the refugees, mostly Turkmen families, were sent to Adıyaman refugee camps.

Sixteen wounded Syrians were taken to various hospitals in Hatay.

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