Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has warned the Syrian regime about amassing Syrian forces near Aleppo over the last two days, saying such a deployment could be a “red line” for Syria's northern neighbor Turkey “in terms of their strategic and national interests.”
Turkish officials told reporters late last year that the Turkish military could establish a buffer zone if the Syrian army advanced on a city, like Aleppo, close to the Turkish border.
Two main Syrian activist groups reported clashes in areas including the central province of Homs, the northern regions of Idlib and Aleppo and areas around the capital Damascus and the southern province of Daraa. The activists said troops kept up an offensive in an eastern coastal region where the US says President Bashar al-Assad's forces may be preparing for a massacre.
Syria is veering ever closer to an all-out civil war as the conflict turns increasingly militarized. Already more than 13,000 have died since March 2011, according to activist groups.
Both sides of the 15-month-old revolt to oust Assad have ignored an internationally brokered cease-fire that was supposed to go into effect April 12 but never took hold. The US and its allies also have shown little appetite for getting involved in another Arab nation in turmoil.
“We are watching this very carefully,” Clinton said. Her comments came at a public appearance with visiting Israeli President Shimon Peres on Tuesday.
Turkey is wary of military intervention in neighboring Syria, but has signaled a large flood of refugees entering its territory, or massacres by Syrian government troops, could force it to act. It has said that in any operation it would need some form of international agreement and involvement.
Turkey, which fears its neighbor could descend into a sectarian civil war, was once a close friend of Syria, but Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has expressed that they are running out of patience with Assad's repressive methods and has called on him to step down. Late last year, Turkish officials stated that Turkey opposes unilateral steps or intervention aimed at “regime change” in Syria, but has not ruled out the possibility of more extensive military action if security forces began committing large-scale massacres.
Turkey wants to avoid a massive influx of people crossing its borders, having been inundated by 500,000 people from Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. “Foreign ministry sources added that Turkey could set up a no-fly buffer zone within Syria if Syrians fleeing the army create a mass wave of migration to Turkey,” a recent report said.
“A more extensive military intervention could be on the table only if the Syrian regime starts a large-scale massacre in a big city such as Aleppo or Damascus,” the same report underlined.