HUFFINGTON POST
08/11/2012 06:32 am ET Updated Oct 11, 2012

Syria, Jordan Forces Clash In Border Area

By Hadeel Al Shalchi

ALEPPO, Syria, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Syrian and Jordanian forces clashed along the border overnight in an incident that highlighted international concerns that the civil war in Syria could ignite a wider regional conflict.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stepped up efforts to tackle the worsening Syria crisis on Saturday when she arrived in Turkey for talks with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and members of the Syrian opposition.

Troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad tried to snuff out resistance in Aleppo, the country's biggest city, but rebels said they would hit back despite having lost ground and run low on ammunition.

"We can handle the bombing," rebel commander Abu Thadet said in Aleppo. "It's the snipers that are making it hard."

The border clash broke out after Syrian refugees tried to cross into Jordan, a Syrian opposition activist who witnessed the fighting said.

Syrian troops fired across the frontier and fighting ensued, a Jordanian said. No one was reported killed on Jordan's side.

Armoured vehicles were involved in the clash in the Tel Shihab-Turra area, about 80 km (50 miles) north of the Jordanian capital Amman, the Syrian activist said.

Jordanian troops have fired near the border in the past to stop Syrian forces shooting at fleeing refugees.

But the latest clash - the most serious incident between the two countries since the uprising against Assad began 17 months ago - is likely to alarm Western powers who fear any spread of violence in a region divided over the conflict.

Assad, who is allied to Irans, is fighting to crush a rebellion that aims to end his family's four decades in charge of Syria. A member of the country's Alawite minority, he is battling mostly Sunni Muslim foes who Damascus says are backed by Sunni-led states such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.

REBELS REGROUP

Syria's long border with Jordan has been an escape route for Assad opponents, including Prime Minister Riad Hijab who defected this week.

In Aleppo, Syria's economic hub and a crucial arena in the conflict, rebels were regrouping at the headquarters of the Seyoof al-Shahbaa brigade after retreating from Salaheddine - the district that controls access to the city from the south.

They were preparing to return to the district, a former rebel stronghold, to join other fighters.

"The reason we retreated from Salaheddine this week is due to a lack of weapons," commander Thadet said.

Weapons merchants say they are out of stock and bullet prices have gone up 70 percent in the past two days, Thadet told Reuters.

Fighting has ebbed and flowed over the past week but Assad's forces were in control of much of Salaheddine on Saturday.

Thadet leads a brigade of 30 fighters but 10 are wounded, mostly by sniper fire. Snipers are positioned even in areas that rebels claim to control.

His men have broken down walls within apartment buildings to make covered paths through Salaheddine as the open streets are too dangerous.

While Assad's grip on the country has been eroded as the uprising has gathered momentum, his forces have consistently demonstrated their overwhelming firepower advantage against lightly armed rebels.

NEW SANCTIONS

In Damascus, residents reported shelling of the southeastern district of Shebaa and said nine tanks could be seen on the road heading out to the airport. Forces in the capital have been much more efficient at rooting out rebels than in Aleppo, a city of 2.5 million where fighters have flooded in from rural regions.

The United States imposed a new round of sanctions on Friday that targeted Syria's state-run oil company Sytrol for trading with Iran, and the Lebanese Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah for aiding the Syrian government.

Repeated rounds of U.S. and European sanctions, announced every few months, have had a negligible impact on the war. Russia and China have blocked U.N. Security Council action that would have allowed tighter, global sanctions against Damascus.

"There will be no winner in Syria," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement on Thursday. "Now, we face the grim possibility of long-term civil war destroying Syria's rich tapestry of interwoven communities."

Diplomats said veteran Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi could be named next week to replace the U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, who quit after his peacemaking efforts proved futile in the face of Security Council division.

HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

09/09/2012 12:25 PM EDT

Syria Blasts Aleppo By Air

09/05/2012 7:50 AM EDT

Syrian City In Flames

08/25/2012 1:45 PM EDT

Lebanese Pilgrim Freed

lebanon

Hussein Ali Omar, 60, one of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims that Syrian rebels have been holding for three months in Syria, hugs his mother, right, upon arrival at his house in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, 2012. Syrian rebels freed Omar on Saturday in a move aimed at easing cross-border tensions after a wave of abductions of Syrian citizens in Lebanon. The Shiite pilgrims were abducted May 22 after crossing into Syria from Turkey on their way to Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

08/24/2012 12:22 PM EDT

Daraya, Syria

syria

This image made from video and released by Shaam News Network and accessed Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, purports to show the funeral of children in Daraya, near Damascus, Syria. Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopters broke into a Damascus suburb on Thursday following two days of shelling and intense clashes as part of a widening offensive by President Bashar Assad's forces to seize control of parts of the capital and surrounding areas from rebel fighters, activists said. At least 15 people were killed in the offensive on Daraya, only a few miles (kilometers) southwest of Damascus. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network SNN via AP video)

08/24/2012 11:05 AM EDT

Lebanon Sees Heaviest Clashes In Months

Clashes between Assad supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime killed two people in Lebanon on Friday, the Associated Press reports. 17 people were injured.

The AP gives more context:

Syria was in virtual control of its smaller neighbor for many years, posting tens of thousands of troops in Lebanon, before withdrawing under pressure in 2005. Even without soldiers on the ground, Syria remains influential, and its civil war has stirred longstanding tensions that have lain under Lebanon's surface.

Read more on HuffPost World.

08/24/2012 11:02 AM EDT

Tripoli, Lebanon

lebanon

A Sunni gunman fires a gun during clashes that erupted between pro and anti-Syrian regime gunmen in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 24, 2012. The latest round of fighting first erupted on Monday in northern Lebanon and at least 15 have been killed in Tripoli this week and more than 100 have been wounded in fighting that is a spillover from Syria's civil war. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

08/24/2012 11:00 AM EDT

Refugee Numbers Soar

@ KenRoth :

UN reports 200,000 #Syria refugees, 30,000 in past week alone. Many more internally displaced not counted. http://t.co/BaM6u59j

08/23/2012 2:00 PM EDT

Azaz, Syria

syria

Syrian boy Musataf Alhafiz, 11, who fled his home with his family due to fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels, carries his brother Saif, 9 months, while he and others take refuge at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing, in hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. Thousands of Syrians who have been displaced by the country's civil war are struggling to find safe shelter while shelling and airstrikes by government forces continue. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

08/23/2012 12:09 PM EDT

Heaviest Bombardment This Month

Helicopter gunships shelled Damascus on Wednesday as Syrian security forces intensified their assault on the capital. Activists report that at least 47 people were killed.

"The whole of Damascus is shaking with the sound of shelling," a woman in the neighborhood of Kfar Souseh told Reuters.

Read more on HuffPost World.

08/23/2012 10:56 AM EDT

Al Aan-Reporter Jenan Moussa Tweets:

@ jenanmoussa :

Graphic. We saw in a mosque in #Syria these 4 children staring at dead body. Pic by @HaraldDoornbos: http://t.co/lgq8IAmO #warsucks @akhbar