THE bloody conflict in Syria spread across two borders yesterday, killing a cameraman in Lebanon and leaving at least five people injured in a refugee camp in Turkey as gunfire flew across the tense frontiers.
The violence came as a UN-brokered peace plan all but collapsed and bolstered fears that the uprising could spark a broader conflagration by sucking in neighbouring countries.
Ali Shaaban, a cameraman for the al-Jadeed TV station, was filming in Lebanon’s northern Wadi Khaled area when a bullet pierced his chest, Lebanese security officials said. The gunfire came from the nearby Syrian village of Armouta, they added.
Mr Shaaban, who was born in 1980, died on the way to the hospital.
His colleague, reporter Hussein Khreis, said the team heard heavy gunfire around them from all sides “falling like rain”. Mr Shaaban was inside a car when he was struck, Mr Khreis said.
“If you see the car you would think it was in a war zone,” he said. “It is completely destroyed from the bullets.”
He said they waited for more than two hours for the army and some residents to come and pull them out to safety.
Syrian forces also fired across the border into a refugee camp in Turkey, injuring at least five people, authorities said.
The Syrian soldiers were believed to be firing at rebels who tried to escape to the refugee camp after ambushing a military checkpoint, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), citing a network of sources on the ground. Turkey shelters thousands of refugees, who have fled Syria as president Bashar al-Assad tries to crush a revolt gainst his regime. The UN estimates 9,000 people have been killed in Syria since March 2011, when the uprising began.
Syrian troops were meant to pull out of population centres by this morning, but the government on Sunday introduced a new demand – saying that it could not withdraw without written guarantees from opposition fighters that they would lay down their arms. Syria’s main rebel group rejected the government’s demands.
The Syrian opposition and western leaders had been sceptical all along that Mr Assad would live up to his commitment to a truce, because he broke similar promises in the past and escalated attacks on opposition strongholds in the days leading up to the ceasefire deadline.
Turkey hosts 24,000 Syrian refugees, including hundreds of army defectors, and has floated the idea of setting up a buffer zone inside Syria if the flow of displaced people across its border becomes overwhelming.
The two countries share a 566-mile border, and parts of southern Turkey near Syria are informal logistics bases for rebels, who collect food and other supplies in Turkey and smuggle them to comrades across the border.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the fighting along the Turkish border began before dawn yesterday, when rebel fighters attacked Syrian soldiers manning a checkpoint near the Turkish border, killing six soldiers.
SOHR spokesman Rami Abdul-Rahman said that the troops then kept firing as they pursued eight injured rebels, who escaped to the refugee camp just across the border in Turkey, sending bullets whizzing across the frontier.
According to the SOHR, the troops wounded five people in the camp, next to the Oncupinar border post near the town of Kilis in Gaziantep province.
The organisation reported that two people later died of their injuries.
The provincial governor, Yusuf Odabas, said five people were wounded – three Syrians, one Turkish translator and one Turkish policeman. The translator had entered the camp to try to help calm an anti-Assad protest, he said. The governor said Turkish military forces did not return fire.
Kofi Annan is scheduled to visit a refugee camp in Hatay province tomorrow afternoon.