Syrians run as they flee from the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain
to Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar, in Sanliurfa
Around 9000 Syrian refugees have fled to Turkey in the
past 24 hours, the UN refugee agency says, one of the largest
single day influxes, while Turkish state media said 26
defecting Syrian army officers had also arrived.
More than 120,000 registered Syrian refugees are now
sheltering in Turkish camps, and tens of thousands of
unregistered Syrians are living in Turkish border towns and
The latest influx caused alarm in Turkey which is
increasingly concerned about its ability to cope with such
large refugee numbers and has pushed hard - so far without
success - for a buffer zone to be set up inside Syria where
refugees could be housed.
The inflow could see it redouble efforts to persuade others
of the need for such a buffer zone and may encourage Ankara
to speed up a planned request to NATO to deploy Patriot
surface-to-air missiles on its border to guard against a
spillover of violence. Such a move could be part of a no-fly
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan hit out at the
15-nation Security Council on Friday.
"It is very strange. There are currently atrocities being
committed in Syria and these atrocities are being directed by
a state leader. While these atrocities are continuing ...
there is a United Nations that is remaining silent towards
it," Erdogan said during a trip to Indonesia.
"How far will this go? When will the permanent members of the
U.N. Security Council take responsibility? We are obliged to
act together to counter this, otherwise we cannot refer to
this world body as being democratic," he said.
Ankara has become increasingly vocal about voicing its
frustration at the U.N. Security Council over its failure to
act to stop a conflict that Syrian opposition activists say
has killed 38,000 people.
Although Turkey has repeatedly said it does not want to
intervene militarily in Syria, it has slowly been drawn into
the conflict and its forces now regularly fire on troops
loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in the event that shells
or bullets cross its border from its southern neighbour.
A Turkish foreign ministry official described the latest
influx of refugees as "worrying" and said initial
investigation showed there may not be enough capacity to
house all of the new arrivals but that Turkey was trying to
accommodate them all.
The UNHCR said 1,000 Syrians had also fled to Lebanon and
another 1,000 to Jordan in the past 24 hours, swelling the
overall total who are registered or being assisted in the
region to 408,000.
State-run Anatolian news agency said around 5,000 Syrians had
crossed into Turkey's Sanliurfa province overnight, fleeing
fighting between rebels and Syrian government forces in the
town of Ras al-Ain just across the border in Syria.
Syrian rebels and opposition sources said late on Thursday
that Free Syrian Army fighters had captured Ras al-Ain, an
Arab and Kurdish town in the northeastern oil-producing
province of Hasaka, but that clashes there were continuing.
A Reuters witness in the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar,
which lies opposite Ras al-Ain, said he could hear the
continuous sound of gunfire coming from the Syrian town.
Rebel fighters in the town could also be heard shouting: "God
is greatest!" in between bursts of gunfire.
Schools in Ceylanpinar were closed for the second day in a
row, Turkish media reported. Two Turkish civilians were
wounded in Ceylanpinar on Thursday after being struck by
stray bullets fired from Ras al-Ain.
Anatolian said 26 military officers, including two generals,
had defected to Turkey overnight, the biggest mass desertion
of senior soldiers from Assad's forces in months.
The officers, among them two generals, 11 colonels, two
lieutenant-colonels, two majors, four captains, and five
lieutenants, crossed into the border province of Hatay with
their families and other soldiers, in a group of 71 people.
They were taken to Apaydin camp in Hatay, where Turkey is
sheltering other officers who have defected from Assad's
army. Defections of high-ranking officers to Turkey occurred
almost daily during the summer but have since slowed.
Relations between Ankara and Damascus, once close allies, are
now as frosty as at any time since the Syrian revolt began
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reiterated on Friday
that the Patriot missiles it wanted from NATO were part of
ongoing discussions for contingency plans within the alliance
but said no official request had been made so far.
Turkey is growing increasingly concerned about security on
its border with Syria and has summoned its NATO allies twice
this year over the issue, saying the alliance had a duty to
protect its own frontier.
The Turkish chief-of-staff has said his troops would respond
"with greater force" if shells continued to land in Turkey.
Last month parliament authorised the deployment of troops
beyond Turkey but Ankara is reluctant to take any unilateral
military action inside Syria.