'Turkey: Retired officers to deal with Syrian refugees'

Ankara reportedly fears NATO intervention, expects additional 17,000 Syrian refugees may be headed for border, 'Zaman' says.

Syrian refugee camp Turkey 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Syrian refugee camp Turkey 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Ankara has called in every officer retired from the military in the past five years to help staff its provinces bordering Syria, the Istanbul- based newspaper Today’s Zaman reported on Thursday.
Officials have announced that 7,239 Syrians are currently seeking refuge in Turkey and the number is expected to rise drastically with another 17,000 Syrians in transit.
Foreseeing the possibility of a massive influx of refugees from Syria, the Turkish Prime Ministry’s Natural Disasters and Emergency Situations Department began making preparations for such a crisis two months ago by setting up a coordination center, Today’s Zaman said.
The Turkish government is also concerned about the possibility of a NATO intervention in Syria, fearing that Ankara would be most affected by such a move and that it could spark a larger backlash in the Muslim world, the paper reported.
Hundreds of Syrians fled across the border after Syrian armored forces stormed an important town on the main highway in a northern province near the border with Turkey on Thursday in an offensive to crush popular unrest.
“Around 14 tanks and armored vehicles entered Saraqeb this morning, accompanied by 50 buses, pick-ups and security cars.
They started firing randomly and storming houses,” said a resident, who fled the town in Idlib province, 50 km.
southeast of Turkey’s Iskenderun (Hatay) province.
The Turkish government, earlier a strong supporter of President Bashar Assad, demanded this week that he put a stop to the killing of civilian protesters by his security forces and said events in Syria in the coming days would be “critical.”
The direct message from Turkey raised pressure on Assad, who said his forces would continue to pursue “terrorist groups.”