Last Updated: Tue Mar 06, 2012 16:01 pm (KSA) 13:01 pm (GMT)

Turkey urges ‘immediate’ opening of Syria aid corridor after bombing of refugee Bridge

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been one of the strongest critics of his former ally Assad over the crackdown on protesters, which has left more than 7,600 people dead in the last year, according to the UN. (Reuters)
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been one of the strongest critics of his former ally Assad over the crackdown on protesters, which has left more than 7,600 people dead in the last year, according to the UN. (Reuters)

Turkey on Tuesday asked Syrian to immediately open a humanitarian aid corridor after Syrian forces pounded rebel-held towns and blasted a bridge used by refugees to escape to Lebanon.

“Humanitarian aid corridors must immediately be opened,” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a parliamentary meeting of his AKP party in Ankara.

He also urged the international community to put pressure on Damascus to allow the delivery of relief supplies to civilians.

But the prime minister did not comment on the possible location for an aid corridor into Syria with whom Turkey shares a 910-kilometer (560-mile) border.

Erdogan accused his one-time ally President Bashar al-Assad of ramping up the violence against the Syrian opposition whom he saluted for their “honorable and determined resistance.”

The Turkish leader also delivered an implicit rebuke to Russia and China for vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution criticizing the Assad regime.

“Some countries’ hesitant approach is strengthening the Assad administration,” he said.

Erdogan has been one of the strongest critics of his former ally Assad over the crackdown on protesters, which has left more than 7,600 people dead in the last year, according to the UN.

Some 11,000 Syrians have fled to Turkey since the uprising began in March last year, according to Turkish government figures.

They are mainly housed in camps in Hatay, where members of the Free Syrian Army, made up of deserters from the Syrian security forces, are also based.

Erdogan appeal for a humanitarian air corridor in Syria followed the bombing of a bridge used to evacuate the wounded and refugees to Lebanon from the central flashpoint province of Homs, cutting off a key escape route, a monitoring group said.

“Regime forces on Tuesday bombarded a bridge near Qusayr, in Homs province, which is used by refugees and the wounded fleeing to Lebanon,’ Rami Abdul Rahman, of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told AFP.

He said the bridge was located in the village of Rableh, some three kilometers (nearly two miles) from the Lebanese border, and straddles the Orontes River.

Hadi Abdallah, a Syrian activist in Homs, said the bridge was used last week to transport wounded French reporter Edith Bouvier out of Homs, which has been the target of a fierce assault by regime forces.

Baba Amro’s tale of tragedy

Baba Amro Residents who fled to Lebanon said the smell of decomposed bodies, sewage and destruction filled the air in Homs.

With aid workers still blocked from reaching the former rebel stronghold and most foreign journalists banned from Syria, witness accounts from residents who fled across the border portrayed a grim picture of conditions in Homs.

“The smell of death was everywhere. We could smell the bodies buried under the rubble all the time,” said Ahmed, who fled to Lebanon last week, according to Reuters.

“Bodies are in the streets, many are decomposed but we could not bury them,” he said, speaking at a relative's house in Lebanon, looking tired with dark circles around his eyes.

Men fled to Lebanon, women and children to villages in Homs province. But some did not make it. Activists said last week at least 62 people were killed when they tried to leave Baba Amro.

Syrian state television reported residents were returning to Baba Amro, airing footage on Tuesday of dozens of men, women and children walking through grubby streets, passing pock-marked and semi-destroyed buildings.

Syria says it is fighting armed militants funded and armed from abroad while residents say the crackdown is aimed at crushing pro-democracy protesters and those opposed to Assad.

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