Turkey deploys rockets at Syria border

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BEIRUT -- Turkey deployed anti-aircraft guns, rocket launchers and other weapons along its border with Syria yesterday, a military buildup that came as world powers showed new urgency to resolve the crisis before it ignites the region.

A bomb exploded in central Damascus near a busy market and the country's main justice complex, wounding at least three people, damaging cars in a parking lot and sending a black cloud rising above the Syrian capital. It was not clear who was behind the bombing.

Much of the violence that has gripped Syria since the uprising began in March 2011 has been sanctioned by the government of President Bashar Assad to crush dissent. Activists say more than 14,000 people have been killed.

But rebel fighters are launching increasingly deadly attacks on regime targets, and several massive suicide attacks this year suggest al-Qaida or other extremists are joining the fray.

Turkey, a former ally of Syria, has become one of the strongest critics of the Assad regime, and tensions between the two countries spiked following the downing of a Turkish military plane last week.

A small convoy of Turkish military trucks towing anti-aircraft guns entered a military outpost in the border village of Guvecci, which faces a Syrian military outpost, according to TRT television video.

Several anti-aircraft guns also have been deployed elsewhere along the border. Some trucks were seen carrying self-propelled multiple rocket launchers, the video showed.

Ties between Turkey and Syria have not been this low since the late 1990s, when the neighbors almost went to war. Tensions ran high in the 1980s and 1990s as Turkey developed military ties with Israel and Syria sheltered Turkish Kurd guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan.

Now, Turkey is hosting civilian opposition groups as well as hundreds of military defectors who are affiliated with the rebel Free Syrian Army.

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Syria insists the Turkish military plane it shot down on June 22 had violated its airspace. Turkey says the jet had unintentionally strayed into Syria's airspace and was inside international airspace when it was brought down over the Mediterranean by Syria.

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