Syria fires hamper smuggling of refugees

2012-06-11 15:02
Yayladagi - Syrian rebels are having to find new and more difficult routes to smuggle refugees and wounded civilians and fighters into Turkey after Syrian government forces began torching wooded areas along the border this month.

The deliberate fires appear to be a new tactic by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to flush out hiding rebels and stop civilians escaping. Syrian troops began laying mines along the same border months earlier.

Some wounded die before they can reach medical treatment in Turkey because it can now take up to three times longer to cross the border, rebels inside Turkey said.

"Assad is trying to block off all our routes. They are starting fires all along the border," said Abu Ahmad Lahlu, a rebel who helps smuggle Syrian families into Turkey.

"It has become very difficult, we have had to find new routes that take us very far away," he said at Yayladagi camp, just a kilometre from a border gate in Turkey's Hatay province.

One of the main crossing points had been a few kilometres away, in the hillier terrain around the Turkish village of Guvecci, but it is no longer an option because of the fires.

Longer walk

Syrian troops stationed in two watchtowers overlooking the slope opposite Guveccei have a far clearer view of anyone moving across through the charred stumps and cinders of brushwood that once hid rebels and fleeing civilians.

The fires have not been lit all along the border, and have initially targeted areas of known rebel or smuggling activity. On Sunday, a Reuters correspondent saw two thick columns of white smoke from fresh fires rising high into the blue sky in separate border areas several kilometres either side of Guvecci.

Outside Yayladagi camp, refugees and fighters from the Free Syrian Army, which is battling Assad's forces inside Syria, mingle together in the shade of a tree.

Pointing to his dirt-covered clothes, Lahlu says he has just arrived back from one of his near-daily trips across the border but because of the fires he now has to walk much further.

"A one hour journey has now become a three hour journey," said Lahlu.

"Last week we were carrying a wounded man but he died because we could not get him across in time," he said.

Malik Ali, one of the camp's elders who arrived not long after the start of the uprising in Syria about 15 months ago, said government forces were also burning villagers' crops along the border.

27 000 in refugee camps


"They are starting these fires to stop the Free Syrian Army, who are hiding in the forests and also to impoverish the people by burning their fields," he said.

Corroborating people's stories of what is happening inside Syria is difficult because the government tightly restricts the international media's access.

Despite the increased difficulty in smuggling people across, Ali said 80 wounded Syrians, mostly civilians, had crossed the border in the last three days because of government offensives in one district of northern Idlib province.

As of 5 June, there were almost 27 000 Syrian refugees living in camps in Turkey, according to Turkey's disaster and emergency organisation. Around 2 700 of those fled during the first five days of this month. At least 2 000 more Syrians are reckoned to have found their own refuge inside Turkey.

Syrian troops have also mined many parts of the border around Hatay over the past few months to restrict cross-border movement killing and wounding both rebels and civilians.

Lahlu said the fires had set off some of the mines over the past days but nobody had been killed although one man had lost his leg.

"Assad's forces want to stop us," Lahlu said, "but even if it means sacrificing our lives we will continue."

Read more on:    bashar al-assad  |  turkey  |  syria  |  syria conflict  |  uprisings
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
4 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Five wrapping hacks you have to know before Christmas

Five gift wrapping hacks that will save Christmas for you!

 
 

I love summer.24

Sexiest Instagrams of 2014
Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!
Summer Survey!
Great ideas for the best summer sandwiches!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

30% off the bestselling books

Save big on the most captivating reads of 2014. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It is hard to keep some sort of balance when the natural rhythm has flown out the window. The best thing to do is try not to keep...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.