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Terrorism & Security

Fearing spillover, Turkey closes border with Syria as Aleppo braces for war

Thousands of Syrian troops are headed toward Aleppo, where rebels have taken over some neighborhoods. Many Syrians never expected the fighting to reach the regime stronghold.

By Staff writer / July 25, 2012

In this image made from amateur video released by the Ugarit News and accessed Tuesday, July 24, a Free Syrian Army soldier fires his weapon during clashes with Syrian government troops in Aleppo, Syria. Turkey sealed its border with Syria to trucks on Wednesday, July 25, cutting off a vital supply line to the embattled nation as fighting stretched into its fifth day in the commercial capital of Aleppo.

Ugarit News via AP video/AP

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Turkey closed its border with Syria today to all but refugees as violence gripped the northern commercial city of Aleppo for the fifth day.

Today’s closure will seal the only three border gates that remain open along the 566-mile border, closing off important supply routes into Syria, according to local newspaper National Turk. Rebel and regime forces have fought fiercely for control of the border posts; the closure follows the rebels recently wresting control of two border posts from government troops, Agence France-Presse reports.

Zafer Caglayan, the Turkish economy minister, told the Associated Press that "dozens of Turkish trucks were either looted or torched" during a clash last week in which rebels took over border crossing of Bab al-Hawa and, in the last year, Turkish truck drivers have been regularly targeted or caught in the middle of fighting. Rebels frequently smuggle weapons and other materials across the border and they control a substantial amount of territory on the Syrian side. 

“We have serious concerns over the safety of Turkish trucks regarding their entry and return from Syria,” Mr. Caglayan said. The number of tracks traveling from Turkey to Syria dropped 87 percent this year, he told the Post.

Rebels poured into Aleppo, a former regime stronghold, over the weekend. The city, the wealthiest in Syria and the country's commercial capital, is 40 miles from the Turkish border. Now the government is fighting to regain control. Helicopters fired down into some neighborhoods as Syrian troops fought rebel fighters in the streets throughout the night and into this morning, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP.

Many Syrians had held out hope that the violence, which has entered its 17th month, wouldn’t seep into its two major cities, Damascus and Aleppo.

The New York Times reports:

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