GÜVEÇÇİ - Reuters
Around 1,000 Syrian refugees, including a defecting general, crossed into Turkey in the last 24 hours, the foreign ministry said today, the one-year anniversary of the Syrian revolt.
Ankara accused the Syrian leadership of planting landmines near its border with Turkey along routes used by refugees fleeing the Damascus regime's deadly crackdown on dissent.
"The number of Syrian refugees currently staying in Turkey boomed by 1,000 in a single day and climbed to 14,700 total," foreign ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal told reporters in Ankara.
The latest wave of arrivals included a defecting general who crossed the border to join the rebel forces which have a base in Turkey's Hatay province on the border with Syria, according to Unal.
"With the Syrian general who arrived yesterday, we now host seven generals on our side of the border," he said. The official declined to identify the general saying it would be against the international asylum law.
On Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay said Syria was planting border mines to stop the refugee flight. "The Syrian administration has been planting mines, taking measures not to allow refugees to flee to the other side of the border," Atalay said in televised remarks.
Human Rights Watch had earlier urged the Syrian regime to stop planting landmines which, it warned, would continue to maim people for years to come.
Atalay also accused the Syrian army of using lethal force to stop people from fleeing the unrest. "Many have lost their lives," he said.
The number of Syrians arriving at the Turkish border is increasing daily as Turkish officials ready themselves for every scenario involving the mass arrival of people mostly women, children and youngsters. "We are getting ready for any scenario, there is the expectation that the numbers will rise," said the foreign ministry spokesman Unal.
In Sanliurfa province, near the halfway point of Turkey's 910-kilometre (560-mile) border with Syria, Turkey has already started building a massive camp site that can house up to 20,000 people, Anatolia news agency reported Wednesday.
Turkey is also establishing a "city" in Kilis, between Hatay and Sanliurfa, made of prefabricated homes to house the refugees, with some 10,000 due to be initially transfered to the site.
Although Turkey advocates a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis that has claimed 8,500 lives according to rights groups, Unal noted that the country was nevertheless "ready for any possibility." Following the Syrian army assault in the Baba Amr neighbourhood of Homs and in the rebel stronghold Idlib, the number of Syrians arriving at the border has escalated sharply.
Turkey broke its former alliance with Damascus over the regime's brutal crackdown. It has also been playing to host the rebel Free Syrian Army, comprising deserters from Assad's forces.