Syrian soldiers attack 5 Turkish trucks, drivers manage to escape

July 05, 2012, Thursday/ 15:04:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

Five Turkish trucks have been attacked by Syrian soldiers, and the Turkish drivers managed to escape with the help of Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters, a news report said on Thursday.

The incident took place in the Azez district of Aleppo on Wednesday, the private İhlas news agency said. One of the drivers stated that Syrian military forces suddenly started shooting at their trucks and that all five vehicles were now unusable. The man added that a group of FSA fighters helped them escape safely and escorted them to the Turkish border.

The incident comes amid heightened tensions between Turkey and Syria after a Turkish military jet was shot down by Syrian forces over the Mediterranean on June 22. Turkey has sent reinforcements to the border, backing up a threat that it will treat every unit of the Syrian army approaching the border as an enemy.

In a related development, a Syrian general from an engineering division defected to the opposition fighters and fled to Turkey on Wednesday, bringing the number of such top ranking officers given refuge on Turkish soil to 16, FSA officials said.

Turkey now hosts some 250 officers who have defected to the FSA in its southern Hatay province and helps them with logistical support, though Ankara denies providing them weapons.

The FSA officials, who declined to be named, told Reuters that the number of officers defecting was rising daily as it became harder for them to avoid involvement in the conflict and due to their reluctance to be involved in the shelling of towns and villages.

More than 35,000 Syrians fleeing violence currently live in camps set up by Turkish authorities in southern Turkey.

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