Turkmens flock to Turkish border amid Syria-Russia bombardment
DHA photoAs the Russian bombardment to defend Bashar-al Assad’s forces heats up in the Turkmen-dominated Bayırbucak region in northwest Syria, waves of locals have flooded to safe zones close to the Turkish border.
With Russian and Syrian air strikes in the region intensifying over the past two weeks, people who have already left their houses are currently struggling against the cold weather in forested areas.
“As of today, some 1,500 Turkmen brothers and sisters have come to our border,” said Ercan Topaca, the governor of the Hatay province, on the Turkish side of the border.
“We have taken measures to meet their demands, such as tents, rapidly, blankets and food,” Topaca said.
Some 575 tents, 4,200 blankets, medical equipment, 20,000 cans of food and 2,000 food kits were sent to the other side of the border on Nov. 21, he added.
Turkey says it has taken in a total of 2.2 million refugees from Syria’s four-year civil war and still maintains an “open door policy,” while warning that its capacity to take more is limited.
Topaca said the authorities are now preparing for a possible new wave of migration from the affected area, which includes 15 mainly Turkmen villages and a total population of up to 35,000 people, including ethnic Arabs.
”Rocket were pouring on us,” said Halil Ebu Ömer, who managed to reach a safe spot. “It was impossible to stay there.”
The Turkish Health Ministry has founded a hospital at a site across from the Syrian village of Yamadı to treat wounded people from the other side of the border. Turkish aid groups have also launched campaigns for Turkmens.
The clashes between the Turkmen military units and the regime forces were continuing at other spots such as Burj El Keseb and Kızıldağ, with the Cebel Ekrad region under heavy artillery fire from regime forces.
Meanwhile, the Sultan Murat Brigade and the opposition Damascus Front recently entered the Turkmen villages of Harcele and Delha, which were retaken from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) thanks to air support by the U.S. and Turkey.
The ISIL militants left heavy arms including rocket launchers in these villages.
More than 70 ISIL militants were reportedly killed in the Bayırbucak region during the operation.
Syria Turkmen Assembly Chairman Abdurrahman Mustafa demanded anti-aircraft weapons from Turkey and the U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition, saying it was very hard to “fight against Russian jets making strikes to support Assad forces.”
The target of the Syrian military is to take over the control of the whole “Turkmen Mountain,” Mustafa said.
Some 200 Turkmens have crossed over to the Turkish side of the border so far, he added.
Ankara has expressed its anger over the bombing campaign by Russian and Syrian regime jets in the region, summoning Moscow’s ambassador to the Foreign Ministry last week to protest.
Syrian government troops are advancing on “nearly every front” thanks to Russian air strikes that began in September, President al-Assad said in an interview released on Nov. 22.
The embattled president also said he favored new peace talks to be hosted in Moscow, but stressed that the Syrian conflict could not be resolved without “defeating terrorism.”
In the interview with Hong Kong-based Phoenix television, Assad said the situation in Syria had “improved in a very good way” since Russia began air strikes on Sept. 30.