Turkish truck owners still wait at border post near Syria

Burnt trucks are seen at the Syrian border crossing building between Syria and Turkey at Jarablus July 20, 2012

AFP | Jul 21, 2012 | 01:42

Cilvegozu, Turkey (AFP) – Dozens of Turkish truck drivers whose lorries were burned or looted as Syrian rebels battled loyalist troops at a Syria border crossing waited Friday to reclaim their ruined vehicles.

The Cilvegozu border crossing, in Turkey’s southern province of Hatay, is located within walking distance of the Bab Al Hawa border post in Syria.

Local authorities in Cilvegozu, a remote area about 700 kilometres southeast of Ankara, said several tow trucks had been sent to Syria to try to retrieve the damaged vehicles.

About 40 trucks were stranded after Thursday’s fighting, said tow-truck driver Hasan Ozturk, who had earlier crossed into Syria to begin hauling vehicles.

“We were able to tow only 10 trucks and there are more than 30 trucks waiting to be towed,” Ozturk said, adding that he did not want to go back.

“I don’t think I’ll go there again. It is not safe at all.”

Thursday’s fighting saw Syrian rebels seize the border crossing and maintain control there throughout Friday. They ransacked customs buildings and pulled cargo from the back of stranded trucks.

By Friday afternoon, the rebels were distributing some of the cargo to local residents, many of whom have suffered through months of deadly fighting in the border zone.

Huseyin Saz, who owns about a dozen trucks that export rice to Middle Eastern countries via Syria, said one of his trucks was damaged.

“We got back both our truck and the driver under the shadow of guns,” he said angrily. “All our goods were looted… The driver had been taken hostage since this morning.”

The driver was later freed and returned to Turkey. Still in shock, he declined to comment.

Turkey and Syria were once political and economic partners. Before the uprising and its military response, some 400 trucks would cross the border at Cilvegozu then head into Syria or onto Lebanon, Jordan or Saudi Arabia.

A Turkish official said the government had been warning drivers for three months not to travel to Syria due to security concerns.

A total of 15 Turkish drivers had died in Syria since the revolt erupted in mid-March last year, he added.

But Thursday’s fighting did not appear to have affected the cross-border flow, with traffic heading into and out of Syria.

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All goods looted, by the people who want to be better than the Syrian Government (and take over from them).

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