Turkey sees new Syrian influx with 3,000 arrivals
An image grab taken from a video published on the Youtube account Jableh1990 on August 11, 2013 allegedly shows Syrian rebel leader General Salim Idris (C-R) talking to rebel fighters in the outskirts of Latakia. AFP PhotoA record number of Syrians fled into Turkey Aug.12 after Syrian government forces bombed Raqqa province, a northern city 90 kilometers from Syria’s Turkey border. Almost 3,000 Syrians entered Turkey through the Akçakale border gate in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa – the most in a single day.
The Syrians were taken onto Turkish soil after being subjected to checks. Local authorities convened an emergency meeting after the influx to discuss a plan. The new arrivals will reportedly be sent to a new refugee camp built in Şanlıurfa’s Viranşehir district. Turkey currently hosts around 500,000 Syrian refugees inside and outside the camps.
Meanwhile, the head of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) has visited Latakia in a show of force in President Bashar al-Assad’s family’s home province.
Several villages in Latakia, which is a stronghold of al-Assad’s Alawite sect, have been overrun by Sunni insurgents over the past few days. Gen. Salim Idriss, who leads the rebel Supreme Military Council, was shown in a video uploaded to the Internet on Aug. 11 wearing casual dress and a shoulder-strapped gun holster and standing outside with mountains in the distance. Idriss was in the Kafr Dalba area of Jabal al-Akrad province, activists said.
In the video, Idriss said he was in Latakia to “look into the reality of the important successes and victories that our revolutionary brothers have achieved on the coastal front.”
“We are here today to reassure everybody that the ... [FSA] General Command is coordinating completely and continuously with the leaders of the coastal front,” said Idriss. “We will continue to work intensively on the coastal front.”
Underfunded and fragmented, Idriss’ men have been overshadowed by hard-line groups, and some more moderate rebel leaders have been killed in power struggles with al-Qaeda affiliates that include foreign fighters.
Idriss’ visit comes a week after rebels launched a “battle to liberate the coast.” They have since progressed and taken control of 11 majority Alawite villages, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog. One group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, issued a statement on Aug. 11 saying its militants were now “a stone’s throw from Qurdaha,” the al-Assad family’s hometown. It said the militants had fired rockets into the town. Al-Assad controls much of southern and central Syria, while rebels hold northern areas near the Turkish border and along the Euphrates valley towards Iraq.