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Syrian rebels check passports at border crossing from Turkey

July 31, 2012 | 10:09 am

BAB AL-SALAMEH, Syria -- The Syrian rebel flag flies side by side with the Turkish flag at the Bab al-Salameh border crossing, a quiet stop between the two countries traversed mostly by refugees, journalists and the wounded.

Rebels attacked and took over the crossing on July 22 and have controlled it ever since. "The crossing has become for us the first liberated area, God willing," said Tareq Diab Hajooleh, a Syrian rebel from nearby Azaz who runs the border crossing.

Border officials fled, taking all the government stamps with them except for some for commercial transport, Hajooleh said. The rebels aren't allowing shipments to go through, he said.

"This country is in a state of war; it still needs time," he said.

The opposition fighters are trying to agree on a new official stamp with Turkish officials so they can begin stamping passports at Bab Salameh and the other three crossings the rebels control on the Turkish border. The rebels still take passports and record the information as travelers pass through.

"Just routine, so they know we’re here," said one rebel lounging in the main office, looking somewhat less than official in a brown T-shirt and slacks, a walkie-talkie rarely out of his grip.

The rebels lamented that the Turkish army and authorities were clamping down on people fleeing Syria. On Monday, they said, four injured people came through the crossing, including two injured journalists from Aleppo and two injured fighters.

The journalists were allowed to cross; the fighters, who didn't have passports, were not. The rebels were smuggled out instead, they said, one dying from blood loss along the way.


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-- Times staff