Syrian rebels battle Assad forces near Turkish border
By Kadir Celikcan
AKCAKALE, Turkey (Reuters) - Syrian rebels battled government forces near a Turkish border crossing on Tuesday and bullets flew into the northern neighbor that has backed the 18-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
The revolt, which began as peaceful street protests cracked down on by Assad's military, has escalated into a civil war in which over 27,000 people have died. Daily death tolls now approach 200 and the last month was the bloodiest yet.
In another bid to stem the bloodshed, Iran's foreign minister proposed a new regional monitoring mission ahead of talks with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Wednesday, Iranian state media said. Two previous missions have collapsed.
From the Turkish side of the crossing with Tel Abyad, a Reuters witness heard sporadic, heavy machinegun fire and saw an ambulance nearby. A Turkish official said stray bullets hit some houses in the town of Akcakale, wounding at least one person, a woman.
He said the rebels were trying to gain control of Tel Abyad, which was a major crossing for Turkish-Syrian commerce in peacetime, and which rebels were rumored to have used for weapons smuggling in the past year.
It appeared to be the first attempt by insurgents to assert their grip over a border zone in al-Raqqa province, most of which has remained solidly pro-Assad.
Rebels hold two other crossings on the northern border with Turkey. A third border point would help strengthen their control in the north and put more pressure on the army as they battle for control of Syria's largest city Aleppo not far away.
Residents say only one town near the border has welcomed rebels in al-Raqqa province. The town held an anti-Assad protest on Tuesday, prompting government shelling, wounding several people, and fighting later erupted. Continued...