Clashes, Turkey fan flames in Syria

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BEIRUT -- Rebel fighters and security forces in Syria clashed near the border with Lebanon and fought over a military barracks in Aleppo on Sunday, while Turkish artillery fired into Syria for a fifth consecutive day in retaliation for cross-border shelling.

On Sunday morning, Syrian forces shelled Tal Abyad, a Syrian town on the border with Turkey where rebels recently seized control, according to anti-government activists. Video images posted online purported to show women and children fleeing the area.

Around the same time, a Syrian shell landed about 200 yards across the border from Tal Abyad, near the town of Akcakale in Turkey, The Associated Press reported. Akcakale is the town where a Syrian mortar shell killed Turkish civilians Wednesday, prompting the Turkish government to announce a policy of retaliation for every shell that strays across the border. Turkish forces fired eight shells back into Syria on Sunday. The mounting tensions at the border have raised international concerns that the 18-month-old internal conflict in Syria could draw in neighboring countries or even the NATO alliance, to which Turkey belongs.

It was not clear who fired the shell that landed in Turkey on Sunday, or why. It is not uncommon for mortar and artillery shells to miss their intended targets by significant margins.

Later Sunday, anti-government activists reported clashes between rebels and security forces near an artillery position in Tal Abyad.

In Aleppo, the government news service said, the army had killed "many terrorists" who tried to infiltrate a military barracks. Earlier, the anti-government Tawhid Brigade said its fighters had penetrated the Hanano military barracks Sunday. A spokesman for the rebel unit, who gave only a nickname, Abu Muhammed, said that in the fight for the barracks, fighters from his unit were joined by members of Jabhet al-Nusra, an insurgent group said to have ties to al-Qaida.

Concerns about rebel affiliation with extremist groups have cut both ways in the debate over whether the United States and other countries should offer more direct support to the insurgency. U.S. officials worry that if more powerful arms are given to the rebels, the weapons will fall into the hands of extremists and be used in terrorist attacks. But some rebels have warned that by denying them the aid they need to win on their own, the West will force the rebels to ally with extremists and their sponsors.

Activists reported fierce shelling near the Aleppo citadel and said that about 20 shells fell on the al-Sakur neighborhood of the city. The government said insurgents opened fire on people demonstrating in support of the army.

In Damascus, a car bomb exploded in a police parking lot, killing one law enforcement officer, the state news service reported.

Intense fighting also broke out Sunday in Syrian villages near the border crossing that leads to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, according to Syrian television and anti-government fighters and activists. Syrian television said security forces battled armed groups that entered the country from Lebanon near the town of Qusayr.

Fighting was also reported Sunday around Damascus, in Homs and in Daraa province in the south, bordering Jordan.



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