BEIRUT (AP) — Turkey sealed its border with Syria to trucks on Wednesday, cutting off a vital supply line to the embattled nation as fighting stretched into its fifth day in Aleppo, Syria's largest city.
By stopping trucking across the 566-mile (911-kilometer) border, the move deprives Syria of a main route for imports and exports. Rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad generally move their weapons and material over the border through clandestine smuggler routes.
Hayati Yazici, the Turkish Customs and Trade Minister, said the move came after rebels captured two border crossings between Syria and Turkey. Last week, dozens of Turkish trucks were either looted or burned when the rebels took the Bab al-Hawa crossing.
An alliance of rebel forces attacked Aleppo, Syria's commercial hub, on Saturday, infiltrating sympathetic neighborhoods in the north and south and then gradually moving towards the historic old city at the center, a UN world heritage site.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported more than two dozen people killed in fighting yesterday in Aleppo and large numbers of people fleeing the southern neighborhood of Sukkari Wednesday morning.
Activist video from Wednesday showed a burning police station in the southern neighborhood of al-Kelassa, while gunfire could be heard ringing out in the background. The Associated Press cannot independently confirm events portrayed in such videos posted online.
Syrian forces, however, managed to quash a similar assault last week in the capital Damascus using heavy weapons including attack helicopters, which are now being deployed in Aleppo, according to local activists and residents. The government forces eventually overpowered the outgunned and outmanned rebels.
A new commander for the 300-member UN observer force, Lt. Gen. Babacar Gaye arrived late Tuesday in Damascus along with the UN official in charge of peacekeeping operations to hold a series of meetings to assess the prospects for a UN peace plan that is being widely ignored.
Associated Press reporter Onur Cakir in Antakya contributed.