News / Middle East

Turkey Says 1,500 Syrians Fled Across Its Border in One Day

Newly arrived Syrian refugees walk to their tents in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli in Hatay province June 23, 2011, as others who are already placed rest in front of their tents.
Newly arrived Syrian refugees walk to their tents in the Turkish border town of Reyhanli in Hatay province June 23, 2011, as others who are already placed rest in front of their tents.

Turkey says that more than 1,500 Syrian refugees crossed its border on Thursday as Syrian forces stormed to the region in their latest show of force against anti-government protesters.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said Friday that more than 11,700 Syrians are now housed in massive tent encampments in Turkey even as the Syrian troops have moved within 500 meters of the border.  

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the border scene "very worrisome" and warned Syria to pull its troops back. She said their presence is worsening an already bad situation for refugees and risks sparking border clashes with the Turks.

Clinton told reporters in Washington that the Syrian military should immediately end attacks and provocations in the region. She said the buildup of soldiers near the Turkish border is another sign of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's intent to repress the Syrian people.

Early Thursday, Syrian troops backed by tanks and snipers stormed the border town of Khirbet al-Jouz, sending hundreds more refugees fleeing into Turkey.

Syria's deployment is the closest its troops have come to neighboring Turkey since the military operation in the area began two weeks ago.  Turkish troops moved their border positions several hundred meters back, apparently to avoid potential confrontations with Syrian units.

Most of the refugees crossed into Turkey in a convoy of about 20 minibuses, while others rushed on foot across the border.

The president of the Turkish Red Crescent, Tekin Kucukali, who spoke to reporters in the border town of Guvecci, said many of the refugees described fleeing the sound of gunfire and advancing tanks.  He said an estimated 17,000 more displaced Syrians have massed along the border, poised to flee.

The two countries' foreign ministers discussed the situation in Syria and the refugee issue by telephone, and Syria's ambassador to Ankara was later summoned to the Foreign Ministry.

The uprising against Assad reached its 100th day Thursday.  Activists say Syria's crackdown has killed at least 1,400 people.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

 

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