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Activists say Syrian authorities bar group from delivering aid
GAZIANTEP, Turkey -- Syrian authorities on Thursday barred hundreds of activists from crossing into the country to deliver aid to victims of President Bashar Assad's deadly crackdown on anti-government dissidents, organizers said.
About 200 activists, mostly Syrians living in countries that include Bulgaria, the Netherlands, France and the United States, traveled to Turkey in a bid to protest the violence and deliver truckloads of food, medical aid and other supplies to Syria.
The U.N. estimates more than 5,000 people have died in Syria since the uprising began there in March. Turkey has been among the leading critics of the Assad regime's violence against protesters.
The activists, waving Syrian and Turkish flags, traveled toward the border in buses and cars.
Turkish authorities stopped members of the "Freedom Convoy" about 9 miles from the border, allowing only a small group to cross the border gate of Oncupinar to negotiate the group's entry with Syrian authorities.
Bilal Dalati, a spokesman for the Freedom Convoy, later said Syrian officials refused the group entry. They also refused to allow the group to drop off the aid, which included food, blankets and medicines, he said.
"The Syrian government said ‘no' to medical supplies, ‘no' to doctors who are going to go in and treat the wounded, and they said ‘no' to food and miscellaneous [items] that we were going to take to Syria to help the towns that's under siege," he said.
Dalati, from Anaheim, Calif., said the group planned to pitch tents and camp on the Turkish side of the border.
"We will demonstrate here and we'll stay in camps until we find a way to bring the assistance products we brought for our people in Syria," said Orouba Barakat, who came from Abu Dhabi.