Middle East

Hundreds in Syria flee to Turkey, fearing army assault

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Media captionFootage sent to the BBC apparently shows the funeral of an anti-government protester taking place in Jisr al-Shughour at the weekend

Hundreds of Syrians are crossing the northern border into Turkey in an attempt to escape growing violence in their own country.

Many say they are fleeing the town of Jisr al-Shughour ahead of an expected military assault after dozens of soldiers were reportedly killed there.

Residents who stayed in the town have set up road-blocks in an attempt to stop security forces from entering.

Turkey said it would not close its doors to those seeking refuge.

Speaking at a news conference in Ankara, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey was monitoring the situation, and called on Damascus to act with tolerance.

Meanwhile, Britain and France have presented a draft resolution at the UN Security Council condemning the Syrian government's suppression of months of unrest, though not suggesting military action or sanctions.

Britain and France are stepping up pressure for a Security Council vote, saying the UN cannot afford to remain silent in light of worsening violence.

'Burning tyres'

The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones says Turkish ambulances are ferrying wounded evacuees from Syria into Turkey, with some being kept in a camp on the border and others being taken to a hospital in a nearby city.

Officially Turkey says 450 people have crossed the border, but accounts from local residents say the figure could be far higher, our correspondent says.

The Syrian government has declared it will act "with force" after it claimed on Monday that some 120 security force personnel were killed in Jisr al-Shughour by "armed gangs".

The reported attack came amid mounting tensions as dozens of protesters were killed across the country over the weekend.

The BBC's Jim Muir in neighbouring Lebanon says there are no reports of action in Jisr al-Shughour itself yet, but that troop movements and preparations have been reported.

Some activists are said to have erected barriers of rocks, tree trunks and burning tyres on the main approach road to try to block the advance of security forces.

"People were struck by fear and panic after the government statements last night, it's clear they are preparing for a major massacre," one Jisr al-Shughour resident told AP news agency.

UN text revised

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the draft resolution before the Security Council focused on "condemning the repression and demanding accountability and humanitarian action".

"If anyone votes against that resolution, or tries to veto it, that should be on their conscience," he added.

On Tuesday, a British spokesman at the UN said that a UN vote was likely to take place later this week or early next week.

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Media captionAlain Juppe: "Bashar has lost his legitimacy to rule the country"

Earlier, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said it was "inconceivable that the United Nations remains silent" on Syria as the violence worsens.

However, some council members - like Brazil, South Africa and India - are afraid that the resolution could be the first step towards a Libya-style intervention, the BBC's Barbara Plett at the UN reports.

Britain and France have revised the text to take in their concerns, diplomats say.

The idea is to build enough support in the council to make it politically difficult for Russian and China - two heavyweights who oppose any action on Syria - to veto the resolution, our correspondent says.

In a separate development, Syria's ambassador to France has denied reports in the French media that she had resigned.

Appearing on French TV, Lamia Chakkour said a telephone interview in which she was reported to have quit was part of a campaign of misinformation against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

She has threatened to sue France 24, which admitted on Wednesday that it was probably the victim of a hoax.

Hundreds have been killed since protests began in February against the rule of Mr Assad, who took over from his father, Hafez al-Assad, in 2000.

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