Turkey - More than 4,000 Syrians have fled to Turkey to escape a
crackdown on protests against President Bashar Assad and thousands more
are sheltering near the border, officials and activists said on
Fearing revenge from security forces for clashes in
which authorities said 120 troops were killed this week, the refugees
streamed out of the northern town of Jisr al-Shughour ahead of a
military operation launched by the army there on Friday.
UK, France put forward UN resolution condemning Syria
Syrian army pushes into border town, state TV says
senior Turkish diplomat said 4,300 Syrians had crossed the border and
that Turkey was prepared for a further influx, though he declined to
predict how many might come.
"Turkey welcomed a great many number
of guests in the past in their times of most dire need. We can do that
again," Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Halit Cevik was quoted as
saying by state-run Anatolian news agency.
Witnesses in the
border province of Hatay said a tent hospital was being set up at the
site of one of the refugee camps, and Radikal newspaper said Turkey
would establish a buffer zone if migrant inflows from Syria exceed
10,000. Just inside Syria, thousands more people were gathering close to
the frontier, according to an activist helping coordinate the movement
"The border area has turned practically into a
buffer zone," said the man, who identified himself only as Abu Fadi.
"Families have taken shelter under the trees and there are 7,000 to
10,000 people here now."
Human rights groups say security forces
have killed more than 1,100 Syrian civilians in an increasingly bloody
crackdown on demonstrations calling for Assad's removal, more political
freedoms and end to corruption and poverty.
were shot dead across Syria on Friday, activists said. Syrian
authorities deployed helicopter gunships in the town of Maarat
al-Numaan, they added, in the first known use of air power against
The government, which has blamed violence in the protest
wave on "terrorists", said on Saturday the army had arrested two armed
groups in Jisr al-Shughour after launching operations there in response
to requests from residents. The state news agency SANA said they seized
guns, explosives and detonators.
Some activists and residents
said the fighting earlier in the week in Jisr al-Shughour was between
members of the security forces after some mutinied over orders to shoot
at protesters, and that many of the dead were civilians caught in the
Damascus has banned most foreign correspondents from the country, making it difficult to verify accounts of events.
northwest border area, like other protest hotspots, is prone to tension
between Syria's majority Sunni Muslims and Assad's Alawite sect, which
dominates the Syrian power elite. The recent clashes hint at splits
within the security forces, whose commanders are mainly Alawite and
The protests were inspired by uprisings against
other entrenched autocrats in the Arab world but do not appear to have
become large or widespread enough to threaten Assad with the same fate
as the toppled leaders of Egypt and Tunisia.