Turkish troops have crossed into Syrian territory to conduct construction work on a separation wall along their country’s border with the Idlib town of Atmeh near a Syrian refugee camp.
Both pro-rebel and pro-Damascus media outlets reported on the Tuesday border violation, which a leading figure in the Atmeh camp for displaced Syrians condemned the Turkish efforts to erect a wall.
Turkey’s Armed Forces in mid-August began to build a concrete separation barrier along the border in Turkey’s Reyhanli district across from Atmeh, a town 40 kilometers west of Aleppo.
Turkish media outlets have reported that the beefed up security measure has focused in the Reyhanli border area due to the smuggling and illegal border crossings there.
On Tuesday, the Turkish army accompanied by excavation machines entered the Atmeh area “with the goal of leveling the area and demolishing several homes near the border,” pro-rebel outlet Step News Agency reported.
“This [comes] after the Turkish Army had seized [an area of land measuring] over 100 meters inside Syrian territory along the border towards Atmeh.”
“Residents of the area have demonstrated and stood up to the Turkish Army and its machinery to prevent them from completing the matter without any intervention from the rebel factions in the area,” the outlet added.
The pro-regime Al-Mayadeen news also reported on the incident, saying that Turkey asked residents of the area—where a large refugee camp is located—to evacuate.
“Protesters gathered to prevent the entry of bulldozers and excavators, prompting the Turkish army to open fire to disperse them,” the report further claimed.
Local authorities Atmeh have formed a negotiation committee to discuss the wall with the Turkish military, which has insisted its construction was a necessary measure.
“Backing down from the decision is impossible because this step is to remove chaos from the border strip,” the pro-opposition All4Syria news outlet cited a Turkish military official as saying during talks with Atmeh authorities.
A member of the Atmeh negotiation committee spoke to All4Syria on the matter, calling for an end to the Turkish “breaches and transgressions.”
“This area is a border area and [incursions are] internationally forbidden.It does not belong to the Turkish state.” The head of the Atmeh refugee camp’s shura council Sheikh Nayel al-Ali said.
“It is [already] difficult for the refugees to live and work in these places because of the heavy handed procedures of the Turkish authorities,” he added.
“If the wall is erected in the village it might become impossible to live there.”