Turkey closed its embassy in Damascus on Monday, citing the deteriorating security situation, as the once close ally moved closer to suspending diplomatic ties with Syria, according to various news reports.
Turkey also recalled its ambassador and other diplomats in Syria, though the consulate in the city of Aleppo will remain open, the Turkey Foreign Ministry said. On its website Sunday night, the ministry said activities were temporarily suspended.
In addition to Turkey, Norway also closed its embassy in Syria on Monday, joining the United States and several European and Arab countries that have shut down operations there. The move by Turkey could add pressure on the government to open up dialogue and end ceaseless violence that has ravaged the country.
Throughout the year-long uprising in Syria, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has made his country available to those fleeing Bashar al-Assad's crackdown against opposition protestors. Some 17,000 refugees have already fled across Syria's 566-mile long border with Turkey, and many are living in newly-built refugee camps.
Hatay, Turkey has become the foreign headquarters of the Free Syrian Army, an opposition rebel force made up of defected Syrian soldiers.
But in an effort to prevent former army soldiers and officers from joining up with the FSA, Syria has imposed new travel restrictions on men of military age, requiring those between 18 and 42 years old to get army and immigration department permission before leaving the country.
Since the policy was imposed on Saturday, the number of refugees arriving in Beirut has fallen by 60 percent, Lebanese officials told Reuters on Monday.
Syria has also tried to stop movement from Turkey back into Syria, and on Monday pro-Assad forces clashed with the FSA -- which the government considers terrorists -- at the border of Idlib province.
The authorities today foiled an attempt by a group of armed terrorists to enter Syria from Turkey, in an area between the towns of Darkush and Salqin, the official SANA news agency reported.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that six Syrian troops were wounded, while the Syrian government claimed to have killed a number of rebel fighters.
Turkish medical teams evacuated the dead and wounded ... (Syrian authorities) seized weapons that the terrorists had left when they fled, like guns, [rocket-propelled grenades], modern communication devices and explosives, SANA reported.
Syrian forces loyal to Assad also continued the assault on the city of Homs on Monday, shelling the de facto opposition home-base for the eighth consecutive week. Activists also reported government tanks have been patrolling the cities of Damascus and Hama since last week.
According to varying estimates from international organizations, some 8,000 to 10,000 people have been killed in Syria since protests against the government began in March 2011.
Although Norway also closed its embassy in Damascus on Monday, Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told the Associated Press that its diplomats will continue to work in Syria via the Danish embassy.