Turkey is bracing itself for a large influx of new migrants from Syria fleeing the relentless brutality and violence of President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown, according to the Today’s Zaman newspaper of Turkey.
Already, about 13,500 Syrians are residing in makeshift camps on the Turkish side of the border in Hatay province.
Turkish officials near the Syrian border are reportedly expecting tens of thousands -- perhaps as many as 50,000 -- of new arrivals in the coming weeks and have begun constructing tent cities in the southern provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep and ?anl?urfa.
Last month, 3,400 Syrians fled to Turkey, with as many as 740 people escaping in one night alone.
Reportedly, the flood of Syrian refugees includes soldiers who have defected from Assad’s military.
Meanwhile, across the border in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, Syrian troops are continuing to assault and bomb civilians, according to human rights activists, and have taken control of the region after four days of carrying out a brutal offensive.
Noureddin al-Abdo, a rebel in Idlib, told Agence France Presse: The [opposition] Free Syrian Army has withdrawn and regime forces have stormed the entire city and are carrying out house-to-house searches. The FSA preferred to withdraw because everyone knows it cannot resist the army.”
It remains unclear how many people have been killed in clashes between the government and rebel forces in Idlib, although unconfirmed reports from opposition groups suggest that scores of bodies have been seen on the streets.
Meanwhile, Assad has apparently responded to a peace plan proposed by UN/Arab League envoy Kofi Annan that calls for an immediate ceasefire by both sides and the start of dialogue.
Jihad al-Maqdisi, a spokesman for Syria’s foreign minister told BBC: It is in Syria's vital interest to have a successful mission for Mr. Annan, because Syria believes in a political solution to this crisis. In order to have a proper political solution, we need to have people rallying around the table of dialogue. This is the only solution to overcome our painful crisis.
However, human rights groups are warning that the Syrian military continues to torture opponents and civilians, and murder with impunity.
Amnesty International said that Syrian rebels and civilians have entered into a nightmarish world of systemic torture… intended primarily to degrade, humiliate and terrify its victims into silence.”