More than 1,500 Syrian refugees streamed across the border to safe havens in Turkey in one day as Syria's 3-month-old pro-democracy movement braced for another day of mass protests Friday.
The refugees crossed into Turkey on Thursday as Syrian troops backed by tanks pushed to the border in their sweep against the anti-government protests, which have posed the gravest challenge to President Bashar Assad's rule. More than 11,700 Syrians are now housed or seeking shelter in Turkish refugee camps, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said Friday.
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Also on Friday, seven people, among them children, were killed during protests at the town of Kiswa near Damascus, al-Arabiya network reported.
Opposition members noted that protests against Assad were being held in more than twenty cities and town throughout Syria.
The Syrian opposition claimed 1,400 people have been killed in a relentless government crackdown on dissent. More demonstrations were planned for Friday after noon prayers.
International condemnation on Damascus was mounting steadily. The European Union announced Thursday it was slapping new sanctions on the Syrian regime and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Damascus to pull its troops back from the Turkish border.
Syrian soldiers patrolled in military vehicles and on foot around the border village of Khirbet al-Jouz. The Local Coordinating Committees, which track the Syrian protest movement, said residents reported tanks had entered the village and snipers were spotted on rooftops Thursday.
Syria has banned all but a few foreign journalists and restricted local media, making it nearly impossible to independently confirm the accounts.
The Syrian army's operation was the closest Syrian troops had come to Turkey since the military crackdown in the area began two weeks ago as Assad's forces tried to snuff out the opposition's chances of gaining a territorial foothold for a wider rebellion. The army's main thrust came against the town of Jisr al-Shughour, where armed anti-government resistance flared in early June.
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