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Syria, Turkey Trade Airspace Bans
October 15, 2012

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Syria and Turkey have banned each other's aircraft from their respective airspaces, as the international struggle between the two neighboring countries intensifies. Meanwhile, human rights organizations had another point of contention as reports emerged that Syrian government forces were dropping cluster bombs over civilian areas, a possible breach of world war crimes conventions.

The airspace closures capped a tense few days along the shared border after Syrian shells repeatedly fell on Turkish territory and Turkey claimed that a Syrian plane forced to land for inspection was carrying Russian-made weapons bound for Damascus, the Syrian capital. Representatives of both Russia and Syria vehemently denied the airplane charge. The damage from the Syrian shells along the southern Turkish border was clearly evident. Turkey has repeatedly said it has no wish for any kind of military conflict with Syria. The same has been true for many other nations, with the large exception being Russia, which continues to sell arms to Assad's government. Qatar and Saudi Arabia have given money to the opposition.

Combat on the ground inside Syria has intensified in recent weeks, as government troops and armed opposition forces struggle to gain the upper hand in the 19-month-long struggle. What started as peaceful protests has descended into armed civil war. The forces of President Bashar al-Assad share united purpose and funding (although that has decreased rapidly in the wake of an international ban on imports of Syrian oil. Opposition groups remain mostly fragmented, with an emerging split between the most well-known group, the Free Syrian Army, and a newly formed group known as the Front to Liberate Syria. The two sides are contesting territory in much of the country, with the focus in recent weeks on large northern cities like Aleppo and Idlib. One particularly hard-hit area is the town of Azmarin, along the Syria-Turkey border.

According to Human Rights Watch, government troops dropped cluster bombs near the town of Maarat al-Numan, between Damascus and Aleppo. The town is on a key north-south highway between the two large cities, control of it is a goal of both sides. The bombs, which explode into hundreds of smaller bombs that rain on a wide area in order to target as many people as possible, have been banned by more than 100 countries (but not Syria, or China or Russia or the U.S.). This was not the first use of such bombs inside Syria, the rights organization said.

Estimates are that more than 30,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict, with more than 100,000 refugees fleeing across the borders to Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.

 

 

 

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