Monday, 13 June 2011
Thousands flee Syrian violence to Turkey
Thousands of Syrians have crossed the border into Turkey, as the government crackdown in northern Syria continues.
More than 5,000 refugees have registered with officials, and are now staying in a three refugee camps in the border region.
It is believed that another 5,000 have entered the country unofficially, and hundreds more are massed at the border, assessing the situation, according to the BBC.
People fled after 15,000 soldiers moved into the town of Jisr al-Shughour, which lies 12 miles south of the Turkish border.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 189 people have been killed in Jisr al-Shughour in recent days, and critics say the government is carrying out a "scorched earth" policy.
The government says 120 security personnel were killed in the town last week by “armed gangs” and that the army operation is to find those responsible. Unofficial reports, however, suggest that the deaths were a result of a mutiny within the army, in response to orders to open fire against protestors.
The army reportedly seized Jisr al-Shughour on Sunday 12th June, and is now preparing to move on to the nearby town of Maarat al-Numan, where it says it is pursuing armed men who escaped the weekend offensive.
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an ally of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, has pledged to keep the border open.
“We will keep our doors open to all our Syrian brothers taking refuge in our country,” he said. “When deaths are getting heavy and our brothers are seeking this kind of refuge, it would be impossible for us to close our doors.”
Erdogan has previously described Assad as a good friend, and their families have vacationed together, but it appears that Erdogan is trying to distance himself from Assad. On 9th June, he called Syria's crackdown on anti-government protesters "inhumane", and said Turkey could support a UN Security Council resolution condemning the regime.
Syria has been hit by waves of protests since mid-March, and human rights groups reported that over 30 people were killed in nationwide protests on Friday 10th June, as thousands of people continue to defy official orders to stay off the streets.
The government crackdown on protestors has led to some 1,400 deaths, and the apparent army mutiny in Jisr al-Shughour has led some to fear that the country may be heading towards civil war.
Sources: BBC News, Bloomberg, The Atlantic Wire, The Telegraph
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