Turkish town tense after Syrian bombs

Turkish town tense after Syrian bombs

Turkish town tense after Syrian bombs

A picture taken from the adjacent Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar shows people running in front of smoke after a Syrian aircraft bombed the strategic border town of Ras al-Ain, on November 13, 2012. AFP PHOTO/BULENT KILIC

Syria’s air force bombed a rebel-held region near the town of Ceylanpınar for a second day, meters from the Turkish border, sending up thick plumes of smoke and causing Turkish residents to rush for cover.

Turkish ambulances rushed to the border to ferry wounded Syrians to Turkish hospitals after jets struck around the Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn. An official from the mayor’s office reported four airstrikes.

Medical workers and refugees in Ceylanpınar said bombings had for two days struck residential areas of Ras al-Ayn, which fell to rebels last week. A Turkish health official at the hospital in Ceylanpınar said rebel fighters were trying to pull the wounded from under the rubble of a house. Refugees say the fighters are taking cover in homes, many of them abandoned by residents who have fled for Turkey.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Ankara would not hesitate to respond if threatened. “We are giving the necessary response on the border and will not refrain from a much harsher response if necessary,” he told deputies of his party in Ankara. “Nobody should play with fire or try to test Turkey’s patience.”

Meanwhile, a U.N. agency said at least 2.5 million Syrians are believed to have fled their homes because of the civil war, more than double previous estimates.

The figure comes from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, whose volunteers are on the frontlines of the 20-month conflict, delivering aid supplies and evacuating the wounded.

“The figure they are using is 2.5 million. If anything, they believe it could be more, that this is a very conservative estimate,” Melissa Fleming, chief spokeswoman of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told a news briefing in Geneva. Aid agencies had previously thought there were around 1.2 million internally displaced Syrians.