Middle East News
Syria denies borders with Jordan closed amid crackdown
Apr 25, 2011, 13:09 GMT
Cairo/Damascus - A Syrian official denied his country's border with Jordan was closed on Monday, the same day Syrian troops backed with tanks moved into the southern city of Daraa to continue a government crackdown on protesters.
Syria's official news agency SANA quoted the director general of customs, Mustapha Bukai, as denying the border with Jordan had been sealed.
'All the border posts with our neighbours, including Jordan, are open. The movement of cars and goods is normal,' he said.
His denial came after Jordanian Minister of State for Media Affairs Taher Adwan said the border was closed, and that the decision 'pertains to the developments inside Syria,' Jordan's official Petra news agency reported.
At least 20 people were killed when hundreds of troops entered Daraa early Monday. Tanks fired at houses and people, and dozens of bodies were seen on the streets, activists reported on the internet.
There was no way to obtain independent confirmation of the casualty figures. Syrian authorities have banned foreign journalists from entering Syria, with the government blaming the unrest on people it calls conspirators.
Telephone lines and electricity were reportedly cut off in Daraa, but some people using Jordanian mobile phones could be reached.
'I can tell you 3,000 troops entered the city and they are currently raiding homes in Daraa,' a Syrian taxi driver who lives in Daraa told the German Press Agency dpa by phone.
'There are many casualties and ambulances are unable to move due to the heavy shooting,' he said.
'These are the forces of Maher al-Assad (brother of Syrian president Bashar al Assad). They are shooting at anything that moves,' he added.
Meanwhile, 102 writers and journalists, both in Syria and in exile, representing all the country's main sects, issued Monday a declaration denouncing the crackdown.
It called on Syrian intellectuals 'who have not broken the barrier of fear to make a clear stance and condemn the violent, oppressive practices of the Syrian regime against the protesters.'
Human rights advocates said security forces have killed around 400 people since the unrest began last month. But the highest numbers were killed in the past three days.
On Sunday, at least 13 people were killed in coastal city of Jableh when security forces fired live ammunition to disperse mourners attending the funerals of some of those who died in an earlier government crackdown on protesters.
Human Rights Watch called on the United Nations Sunday to set up an international inquiry into the fatal shootings by Syria's security forces of peaceful protesters. The UN was also beseeched to impose sanctions on officials who bear responsibility for the use of lethal force.
'After Friday's carnage, it is no longer enough to condemn the violence,' said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. 'Faced with the Syrian authorities shoot-to-kill strategy, the international community needs to impose sanctions on those ordering the shooting of protesters.'
Jordan's main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, also condemned 'this method of dealing with demonstrations which so far led to the death and injury of hundreds of people,' the group said in a statement.
The Brotherhood, a traditional backer of Syria's anti-Israel policies, also urged President al-Assad to yield to the people's demands in reforms, foremost the adoption of political pluralism and ending the 'monopoly' of the ruling Baath Party on the country's political life.
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