SURUC, TURKEY - Kurdish fighters battling to save the Syrian border town of Kobani from Islamic State militants have told the few thousand remaining civilians to flee – a clear sign the town is about to fall.
But it is not always easy to cross into Turkey. Kurdish women refugees from Kobani said they had difficulty entering Turkey, the only safe place within reach.
Turkish border guards at Suruc refused to allow them to cross for 15 days because the refugees wanted to bring their livestock or cars with them, which the Turks would not allow.
The refugees were finally permitted entry into Turkey late Sunday.
One refugee from a village near Kobani said Islamic State fighters shot at civilians from their tanks, burned Kurdish farms, and killed indiscriminantly.
Vehicles left behind
Much of the border on the Syrian side is now a vast parking lot crowded with cars and trucks abandoned by the refugees.
Some of the men stayed behind to protect their vehicles, and shepherds who were unable to guide their sheep through illegal border crossings or to bribe border guards to allow them entry continue to tend their flocks a few hundred meters from the fighting.
There's no telling how long the shepherds will be able to remain there; the militants are making progress, having breached the southern part of Kobani's town center following their seizure of a strategic hill on the east side of town Monday.
Despite a U.S. airstrike on Islamic State positions, the fourth since last week, Islamic State fighters have continued to rain shells down on the town center. A pillar of smoke could be seen rising near one of the central mosques in town.
About 20,000 Kurdish defenders are making a final stand in Kobani, but few here believe the remaining Kurd positions can hold out for much longer than 48 hours.
It's difficult to know how many refugees from Kobani and its surrounding villages are now in Turkey.
Turkish authorities keep changing their estimates from just over 100,000 to nearly 200,000. What is clear is that the Turkish town of Suruc cannot cope with the influx.
Desperate refugees are seeking shelter anywhere they can, from tents supplied by Turkey’s emergency agency, to shops, and even garages.
Nebez, 45, is a farmer with three sons and four daughters. The family sits in a small square in the center of the crowded town of Suruc eating bread donated by a Qatari charity. Nebez said he left his livestock, land and farm behind.
His wife shakes her head and said the family sleeps where it can. They are waiting for a tent.