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MIDEAST > Turkey closes Syria border gate as US suspends non-lethal aid

ANKARA / HATAY

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A youth sits on a barricade as people carrying their belongings walk at the Syrian border crossing of Bab al-Hawa, at the Syrian-Turkish border, on Oct 22.  REUTERS photo

A youth sits on a barricade as people carrying their belongings walk at the Syrian border crossing of Bab al-Hawa, at the Syrian-Turkish border, on Oct 22. REUTERS photo

Turkey has closed the Cilvegözü border crossing with Syria after a newly established Islamist rebel alliance seized the gate on the other side of the border. The seizure also prompted the United States to suspend all non-lethal assistance into northern Syria.

A statement from the Customs and Trade Ministry said the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Syrian side was recently captured by a moderate Islamic group, referring to the Islamic Front, which was formed last month by six rebel groups that merged with the goal of overthrowing the al-Assad regime and establishing an Islamic state. The statement also added that the Cilvegözü border crossing in the southeastern province of Hatay had been closed to the transit of passengers and vehicles.

Last week the Islamic Front rejected the authority of the mainstream Free Syrian Army (FSA), which was the first major rebel force formed after the outbreak of Syria’s civil war and was made up of army deserters and civilians. The capture of the Bab al-Hawa crossing came after the Islamic Front seized arms depots near the crossing belonging to the FSA at the weekend, heightening tensions among the fractured Syrian opposition. It was unclear why the Islamic Front had seized the FSA premises and it was not known whether any stock had gone missing.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Ankara said Washington had suspended all non-lethal assistance into northern Syria after the Islamic Front forces’ seizure of headquarters and warehouses belonging to the FSA.

“As a result of this situation, the United States has suspended all further deliveries of non-lethal assistance into northern Syria,” the spokesman said, adding that humanitarian assistance was not impacted because it is distributed through international and non-governmental organizations.

The U.S. Embassy spokesman said the situation was being investigated “to inventory the status of U.S. equipment and supplies provided to the opposition’s Supreme Military Council [SMC].”

December/11/2013

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