Turkey closes Syria border to trucks

Turkey sealed its border with Syria to trucks on Wednesday, cutting off a vital supply line to the embattled nation as fighting stretched into its fifth day in Aleppo, Syria's largest city.

By stopping trucking across the 911-kilometre border, the move deprives Syria of a main route for imports and exports. Rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad generally move their weapons and material over the border through clandestine smuggling routes.

Hayati Yazici, the Turkish customs and trade minister, said the move came after rebels captured two border crossings between Syria and Turkey. Last week, dozens of Turkish trucks were either looted or burned when the rebels took the Bab al-Hawa crossing.

Reuters and the BBC both reported that the border would remain open to refugees, who have been streaming into Turkey from Syria.

On Tuesday, the UN Refugee Agency said there are more than 44,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey, and that Turkish authorities were building two new refugee camps to deal with the influx.

The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, announced Wednesday it was launching an appeal in Canada to support its Syrian emergency efforts.

"The needs among children and families displaced by the violence of recent days are enormous, whether in food, water and sanitation or other basic supplies," UNICEF Syrian repsresentative Youssouf Abdel-Jelil said in a statement.

In Ottawa, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said he was open to expanding Canada's humanitarian aid to Syria. Canada is the third largest country donor for humanitarian aid. Baird also said he spoke recently to the foreign minister of Jordan about helping it deal with the influx of Syrian refugees.

Clashes in commercial hub

In Syria, an alliance of rebel forces attacked Aleppo, Syria's commercial hub, on Saturday, infiltrating sympathetic neighbourhoods in the north and south and then gradually moving towards the historic old city at the centre, a UN world heritage site.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported more than two dozen people killed in fighting yesterday in Aleppo and large numbers of people fleeing the southern neighbourhood of Sukkari Wednesday morning.

Activist video from Wednesday showed a burning police station in the southern neighbourhood of al-Kelassa, while gunfire could be heard ringing out in the background. The Associated Press cannot independently confirm events portrayed in such videos posted online.

Syrian forces, however, managed to quash a similar assault last week in the capital Damascus using heavy weapons including attack helicopters, which are now being deployed in Aleppo, according to local activists and residents. The government forces eventually overpowered the outgunned and outmanned rebels.

A new commander for the 300-member UN observer force, Lt. Gen. Babacar Gaye arrived late Tuesday in Damascus along with the UN official in charge of peacekeeping operations to hold a series of meetings to assess the prospects for a UN peace plan that is being widely ignored.

More defections

Meanwhile, Syrian opposition activists said the country's ambassador to Cyprus and the most recent ambassador to the United Arab Emirates have defected. Syrian National Council spokesman Yassin al-Naggar in Qatar said Damascus' envoy to Cyprus, Lamia al-Hariri, has arrived in the Gulf nation's capital Doha.

Al-Hariri's husband, Abdel Latif Dabbagh, is the former Syrian ambassador to the UAE. SNC member Shadi al-Khesh in the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi said Dabbagh has also defected.

With files from CBC News