A woman reacts as she rests from walking back to Tel Abyad town, Raqqa governorate, after fleeing Maskana town in the Aleppo countryside.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Within 48 hours this weekend around 35,000 Syrians gathered at a Syria-Turkey border crossing. Many more thousands are expected to arrive.
The flows of these people displaced from Aleppo started a week ago when the Russian jets began to heavily bomb the northern countryside of Aleppo to pave the way for a ground offensive launched after a short period of shelling by the Assad regime and its Iranian and Shi’ite militant allies.
The operation’s objective was to reach two Shi’ite towns in the region that had been under siege by Syrian rebel forces and cut the road between the areas under the control of the Syrian opposition in Aleppo and the city’s northern countryside.
The shelling in the first three days was extremely heavy and did not differentiate between residential neighborhoods and military targets. This caused the death of more than 100 civilians and lead some 20,000 to flee their homes in 15 neighborhoods and towns in the suburbs. They sought out safe havens in towns to the north, further away from regime forces and air strikes. Prior to 2012 Aleppo was the most populous city in Syria with a population over 2 million. After years of fighting, many of its residents had already become refugees and fled to Turkey and then Europe.
With the escalation of the fighting the number of the displaced increased, and those who were waiting to see the outcome of the fighting in the farms in the countryside came to realize there was no possibility of return. Once the regime and its allies cut the road from Aleppo and the northern countryside, seizing villages and towns, the displaced people were pushed toward the Turkish border.
The number of displaced people now sitting at the Salama border gate with Turkey has reached more than 20,000 and there are tens of thousands moving from the area west of Aleppo, near Idlib, toward the border. The number increases day by day as Russia widens the range of targeted towns. It is expected that the total number will reach 50,000 or more in the next few days. Meanwhile Turkey has not opened the gate for the new refugees due to security and logistical reasons, even though Turkish officials confirm that they will not close their doors in the face of Syrian refugees when they are asked about this.
But they will not give a date for when they will allow the refugees in. The situation of the Syrians waiting in the border area is very tragic. Most of them are families with children gathered in this narrow place, and the lucky ones have small tents.
The unlucky are left dispersed in mosques and exposed outdoors in farmlands in the harsh winter weather. In a video published yesterday a woman called for the world to take them out of their miserable conditions and she complained from the crowd, saying there is not even a place to shower or use a toilet.
The displaced only wish for a safe place. “Let us have safety,” is what they keep saying.The author is a journalist from Aleppo.