Syrian Troops Ransack Northern Border Village

Protesters shout slogans, one of them holding a depiction of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and a Syrian flag, during a demonstration in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, June 19, 2011. Photo - AP

Syrian troops have reportedly ransacked a border village that had provided help to thousands of people fleeing a military crackdown on anti-government dissent.

Refugees and activists say that soldiers in the village of Bdama set fire to crops and buildings and shut down the village’s only bakery.  They say troops were setting up checkpoints to prevent people from fleeing to Turkey.

Turkey already is sheltering more than 10,000 Syrian refugees in tent cities near its border with Syria.

On Sunday, Turkey said it also is distributing much-needed food aid to people camping on the Syrian side of the border.  Food is scarce in Bdama, especially since the forced closure of its bakery.

Bdama is a short distance from the Turkish border.  An activist with the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Bdama residents had been helping people who were fleeing violence in other Syrian towns as they headed to shelter in Turkey.

On Saturday, rights activists and witnesses said Syrian forces backed by tanks stormed into Bdama and arrested at least 70 people.

The Syrian government has been intensifying its crackdown in the northwestern province of Idlib.

Rights activists say that nationwide, more than 1,400 civilians have been killed and 10,000 have been detained since mid-March in the government’s crackdown on protests.

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