UNHCR: Thousands of Syrians flee to Turkey overnight

Syrian refugees cross the border between Syria and Turkey on 8 November 2012, to enter the town of Ceylanpinar in Turkey. (Photo: AFP)

Published Friday, November 9, 2012

As many as 9,000 Syrians crossed into Turkey overnight to flee the violence in their country, a United Nations official said Friday, citing officials in Turkey.

UN refugee agency spokesman Adrian Edwards told AP that the refugees had crossed into the Turkish border province of Sanliurfa. The UN had registered 5,000 of them so far and was in the process of registering the others, he said.

"These are people fleeing fighting between the [insurgent] Free Syrian Army and the government of Syria, including more than 70 wounded and two who are reported to have died," Edwards said.

A Turkish official said the Syrians were mostly escaping fighting in the town of Harem, in Syria's northern Idlib province as well as violence in the town of of Ras al-Ayn, in the northeastern province of al-Hasaka, where the rebels had wrested control from the Syrian army. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules that bar civil servants from speaking to journalists without prior authorization.

The new arrivals would bring the number of refugees in Turkey to around 120,000.

Turkey’s Anadolu Agency video footage showed Syrians jumping over and climbing through the barbed-wire fence that makes up part of the 911-kilometer border, to cross into the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar.

Schools in Ceylanpinar were closed for a second day on Friday and residents were being told not to leave their homes.

Rumors that the Syrian army would launch air raids on Ras al-Ayn had precipitated the refugee influx, said an official in Ceylanpinar, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

The refugees were being taken to nearby refugee camps or were staying with Turkish relatives, he said.

Rebel Free Syrian Army battalions stormed the town of Ras al-Ayn on Thursday after launching a two-pronged attack from across the border and the nearby Syrian village of Tal Half, according to the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Six Turks in Ceylanpinar were lightly wounded by ricocheting bullets from the Syrian side on Thursday, the Turkish official said.

Accounts of violence are difficult to verify due to tight media restrictions in Syria, conflicting accounts, and the deteriorating security situation for journalists.

The civil war in Syria has killed more than 23,000 people since an uprising against the Syrian regime began in March 2011, according to the UN.

(AP, AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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