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Syrian government forces shell homes in town bordering Iraq

Last modified: 20 Jul 2012 22:59

Syrian government troops have continued to heavily shell Albu Kamal, a town along the Iraq-Syria border that rebel forces took control of a day earlier, rebels and medics told AFP.

Residents of the town of Al-Qaim, on the Iraqi side of the border from Albu Kamal, said relatives on the Syrian side were attempting to escape into Iraq but Iraqi's forces were refusing to allow them to cross.

"Albu Kamal is being shelled even harder than last night," Free Syrian Army First Lieutenant Khaled Abu Zaid told AFP by telephone. "The Syrian army is attacking all the areas of the city.

"The attacks are stronger than last night's attacks. They are launching the shells from a base outside the city."

A medic in Albu Kamal, who did not want to be named, said that four people had been killed by the shelling and that many people were wounded.

"The shelling is hitting the houses," the medic said.

"I wanted to go to the hospital, but I could not leave my house because two shells landed beside my home. People are trying to hide in their houses. The shelling is much, much stronger than last night."

One resident of Al-Qaim, 340 kilometres (210 miles) west of Baghdad, told AFP that relatives in Albu Kamal were fruitlessly attempting to escape.

"They and other families are trying to leave the city and come to Al-Qaim, but the Iraqi army is refusing to let them enter Iraq," the resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Residents of Al-Qaim are part of tribes that have long straddled the 600-kilometre (375-mile) border between Iraq and Syria.

Iraqi officials said on Thursday evening that Syrian rebels took control of the Albu Kamal crossing, and Baghdad subsequently upped its security at the border point and closed down its side of it.