Turkey denies reports of deliberate attack on Syrian civilians

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 19.06.2016 21:50

Turkish foreign ministry denied Sunday reports claiming that border guards had deliberately opened fire on Syrian civilians and killed at least 8 while trying to cross the border into Turkey.

"Turkish security forces are protecting the border amid risks imposed by the conflict in Syria, terror groups in the region and the human smugglers. In this framework, the armed forces act in compliance with legal basis for action while responding to such illegal border crossings." Tanju Bilgiç, the foreign ministry spokesperson said.

Sources said that a group of 60 people tried illegally crossing the border into southern Hatay province from Syria's neighboring Idlib province approximately at 10:30 p.m. Turkish border guards followed regular procedures and warned the group initially with projectors and audial warnings, sources said.

As a group of seven to eight people climbed over concrete walls to cut off wire fences, soldiers initially fired shots on the air, and then at the bottom of the wall, which led the trespassers to run away to the nearby woods, they added.

Sources said that if people were shot dead at the border during illegal passage, it would be acknowledged by the Turkish Armed Forces on its website, adding that such allegations aim to defame Turkey.

Local reports on the border incident were confirmed by the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which said that at least 11 Syrians, mostly from one family, were shot dead as they tried to cross into Turkey from northwestern Syria.

The Observatory said that at least two women and four children were among those killed in the shootings overnight as the refugees sought to cross into Turkey from the border village of Kherbet al-Jouz.

The monitor, which tracks violence across Syria, said it had documented the deaths of nearly sixty civilians while trying to flee from Syria since the start of the year in shooting incidents by Turkish border guards.

A statement put out by the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces on Sunday called on Turkey to investigate the deaths of at least eight Syrian refugees, including four children, who were allegedly shot dead by border guards the night before while trying to cross the frontier.

The Coalition, which relies on Turkish political and financial support, said the incident "clashes with the generosity displayed by the Turkish government and brotherly people toward displaced civilians."

The Local Coordination Committees, an activist network, said at least one of those trying to cross was from Jarablous, a northern Syrian town under Islamic State control.

A senior Turkish official said speaking to the Association Press "we are unable to independently verify the claims" regarding the shooting, but said authorities were investigating.

"Turkey provides humanitarian assistance to displaced persons in northern Syria and follows an open door policy -- which means we admit refugees whose lives are under imminent threat," the official said on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations.

Turkey, a major supporter of opposition groups fighting to topple Bashar al-Assad's regime, has mostly closed its borders to Syrian refugees under pressure from the European Union, but admits Syrians whose lives are under imminent threat.

Humanitarian bodies have recently urged Turkey to reopen its borders to admit Syrians fleeing the conflict, although the country is hosting some 2.7 million registered Syrian refugees, about 280,000 of whom live in camps.

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