8,000 Syrian refugees flee to Turkey overnight: official
AA photoSome 8,000 Syrian refugees fled to Turkey overnight in the face of escalating clashes between rebel forces and troops loyal to Damascus near the border, a foreign ministry official told AFP today.
11,000 Syrian refugees crossed into Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon in past 24 hours, highest daily total for some time and latest exodus brings total number of refugees registered or assisted in neighbouring countries to 408,000, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says, Reuters reported.
The latest influx brought the total number of Syrian refugees in Turkey to more than 120,000, the official added on condition of anonymity.
"Five thousand Syrians were taken to a camp in Akcakale town near the Syrian border and the others were to stay with their relatives in Turkey," he said.
On Friday, dozens of army officers including two generals and 11 colonels also fled to Turkey to join opposition fighters, the state-run Anatolia news agency reported.
Army defectors, flanked by their families, were taken to the Apaydin camp in Hatay province near the Syrian border where security is tighter.
Turkish officials refuse to give an exact number of Syrian generals currently on Turkish soil as some are returning to Syria to join the active fighters inside the conflict-wracked country.
The government said over 110,000 Syrian refugees live in several camps along its volatile border, as well as the exiled Syrian opposition's political and military leadership, while many more are living in apartments or hotels throughout the country.
It was not immediately clear if the army defectors were among the 8,000 refugees who crossed into Turkey overnight.
The latest exodus was sparked by fierce clashes near the northeastern Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain, where at least 16 Syrian soldiers and 10 rebels were killed on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Rebel Free Syrian Army battalions stormed the majority Kurdish town after launching a two-pronged attack from across the border and the nearby Syrian village of Tal Half, the watchdog said.
Turkish media reported that the sound of gunfire was heard overnight in the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, which lies across from Ras al-Ain.
Six Turks in the town were lightly wounded by ricocheting bullets from the Syrian side on Thursday, the Turkish official said.
Local authorities warned residents to stay away from the border area while schools in the town will be closed for two days.
Turkey has been strengthening its defences along the border since five of its nationals were killed by Syrian shells on October 3, inflaming tensions between Ankara and Damascus.
Since then, Turkish army has responded in kind to every shell falling on its territory from Syria.
Turkey fell out with its one-time ally after the regime's unleashed a deadly crackdown on protests in March last year, and has joined in Arab and Western calls for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.