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3:31pm UK, Monday April 09, 2012
Syrian forces have opened fire at a refugee camp inside Turkey as violence escalates ahead of what now looks like a doomed peace deal.
Gunfire targeted a camp near Kilis in the Gaziantep province, as 30 people – mainly women and children – were killed in Syria’s central province of Hama, activists said.
Turkey has summoned the Syrian charge d’affaires and demanded an end to attacks on Turkish soil.
The map shows Kilis, home to the camp, inside the Turkish border
It is the first such assault since Turkey began taking in thousands of refugees last summer. More than 24,000 people have crossed from Syria into Turkey.
Two refugees and a Turkish translator were wounded at the Kilis camp.
At least two more refugees were killed and several injured in attacks on the Syrian side of the border, officials said.
Meanwhile, a Lebanese television cameraman working for Al-Jadeed was shot dead on the country’s northern border with Syria, the channel’s head of news said.
Ali Shaaban was killed when the channel’s film crew came under fire in the border area of Wadi Khaled, Mariam Bassam told AFP, without elaborating on the source of fire.
The violence came as a truce plan, devised by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, and due to come into effect on Tuesday, foundered.
The plan specifies the withdrawal of Syrian forces from residential areas, followed by a ceasefire from both sides, within 48 hours.
But on Sunday, Syria’s Foreign Ministry made fresh demands – insisting they will only withdraw troops after a written guarantee from rebels to lay down their weapons.
That demand was swiftly rejected by the rebels.
Riad al-Asaad, Free Syrian Army commander, said he was ready to abide by a the pact, but did not recognise the regime and thus “will not give guarantees” to them.
Annan’s spokesman made no comment on the setback and he has not said what would happen if his deadlines are ignored.
The envoy was due in Turkey today to visit Syrian refugee camps near the border, a Turkish diplomatic source said.
Even before the setback, expectations were low that the Bashar al-Assad regime would honour the agreement.
Russia, an Assad ally that supports the ceasefire plan, may now be the only one able to salvage it.
A Russian diplomat said that Moscow was working with the Syrian authorities to seek an end to violence and the start of talks with their opponents.
China urges the Syrian government and parties concerned in Syria to seize the important opportunities, to honour their commitment of ceasefire and withdrawal of troops.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin
But Russia Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov stopped short of publicly pressing the government to meet the military withdrawal deadline.
The rest of the international community, unwilling to contemplate military intervention, has little leverage over Syria.
However, China, who along with Russia, has provided diplomatic support for Syria, urged the regime to honour the truce.
“China urges the Syrian government and parties concerned in Syria to seize the important opportunities, to honour their commitment of ceasefire and withdrawal of troops,” said foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin.
Bashar al-Assad met with Kofi Annan in Damascus to discuss the truce
In recent days, instead of preparing for a withdrawal, regime troops have stepped up shelling attacks on residential areas.
“Mortar rounds are falling like rain,” said activist Tarek Badrakhan, describing an assault in the central city of Homs on Sunday.
He spoke via Skype as explosions were heard in the background. The regime is exploiting the truce plan “to kill and commit massacres”, he said.
Annan said that the escalation was “unacceptable” but Syria said its acceptance of the Annan deal last week was misunderstood.
Instead, Assad’s government has suggested it would not be able to withdraw its troops under current conditions.
Recent weeks have seen a number of car bomb attacks in Damascus
In addition to requesting written guarantees from the opposition, Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi has made several other demands.
The Government wants assurances from Annan that Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia – Assad’s most active critics – halt “financing and arming of terrorist groups”.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia are said to be creating a multimillion dollar fund to pay rebel fighters.
Turkey, meanwhile, has floated the idea of creating buffer zones for refugees in Syrian territory, near the Turkish border.
Many had expected the Assad regime to stall and create new obstacles to a truce because it has little to fear from the international community, say analysts.