Syrian regime advances force 35K to flee to Turkish border

Tens of thousands of Syrians reportedly flee to Turkish border after Syrian regime forces made significant advances north of Aleppo backed by heavy Russian air strikes

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Groups of people walking both towards and away from the Turkish border at the Bab al-Salameh crossing in northern Syria, some 50 km (30 miles) north of Aleppo, on Feb 5, 2016.

Updated Feb 6, 2016

Thousands of Syrians have been flocking to the Turkish border north of Aleppo since Thursday, following heavy Russian air strikes and reports that Syrian regime forces and their allies have been making gains in Aleppo's northern countryside.

Around 35,000 Syrian refugees have arrived at the Turkish border near the southern city of Kilis in the last 48 hours and are being accomodated at camps on the Syrian side of the border, Kilis Governor Suleyman Tapsiz said on Saturday.

Tapsiz also told reporters at the Oncupinar border crossing near Kilis that another 70,000 Syrians could be expected to come to the border if Russian air strikes and military advances by the Syrian regime continued.

"Our doors are not closed, but at the moment there is no need to host such people inside our borders," he said, adding that the refugees had been given food, blankets and tents.

Video footage filmed by an eyewitness and the local SMART News Agency showed men, women and children carrying their belongings, walking towards the border crossing at Bab al Salameh in northern Syria, some 50 km (30 miles) north of Aleppo.

Control of Aleppo is a major strategic goal for all sides in the war and the city is currently divided into areas of government and opposition control.

On Thursday Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told a fundraising conference in London tens that of thousands of Syrians are moving towards the Turkish border from the Syrian city of Aleppo due to increased aerial bombardment.

The Syrian regime's military offensive around the city, which involved a reported 13 air strikes on medical facilities in January, has prompted at least 15,000 people to flee the United Nations said on Friday.

"The UN has verified that at least 15,000 people [are] fleeing from north of Aleppo city and tens of thousands have reportedly gathered at the border crossing with Turkey," a UN spokeswoman said in an emailed comment.

"Local sources say that while the Turkish border remains closed to civilian movement, those requiring urgent medical care have been receiving treatment from local hospitals in Turkey," the statement added.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that “"as required by our conscientious responsibility, we house over 2.7 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Turkey houses the most refugees in the world. Despite its heavy cost, we maintain our open door policy."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosts refugee children at presidential palace in Ankara. (Photo: AA)

Erdogan also underlined that the flow of Syrian refugees into Europe will not stop as long as Russia’n and Syrian regime’ air strikes kill civilians in the country.

"Our European friends want us to stop the refugee flow, is there any other choice for civilians in Aleppo but flee when they are under Russia's heavy bombardment?" he said.

The commander of a US-supported Syrian opposition group said on Friday that the northern countryside of Aleppo Province was completely encircled by Syrian regime forces and its allies and heavy Russian bombardment continued.

Syrian regime forces and their allies broke through opposition defences to reach two villages in northern Aleppo Province on Wednesday, choking opposition supply lines from Turkey to Aleppo city.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu referred to the advances as "worrisome" noting that "Aleppo is a corridor for life between Turkey and Syria. The help coming from all around the world reaches Syria through this aisle."

"This humanitarian logistic corridor is now under the invasion of these foreign fighters and regime forces [with] the support of Russian warplanes," he said.

"What they want to do in Aleppo today is exactly what they did in Madaya before, a siege of starvation," Davutoglu added.

TRTWorld, Reuters