GUVECCI, Turkey (Reuters) – Some 1,000 Syrian refugees have crossed into Turkey in the past 24 hours, a sharp increase in the number fleeing fighting, and more are expected while clashes continue in the nearby Syrian town of Idlib, a Turkish official said on Thursday.
Turkey has opposed military intervention in Syria but has signaled that a tide of refugees is one of the factors that could trigger efforts to establish a ‘safe zone’ inside Syria.
Officials have said the other red line for Turkey would be if President Bashar al-Assad’s forces began massacres in Syrian cities. Turkey has said it would, however, not take unilateral action and any initiative should come from the Arab League.
Some Arab governments, notably Qatar, have advocated establishing an Arab peace-keeping force and arming the rebel Free Syrian Army.
“Around 1,000 people crossed the border from Syria to Turkey in the last 24 hours,” the official said. “We expect this to continue as long as the operation goes on in Idlib.”
Opposition activists said the army had killed dozens of people in Idlib city while rebels had also killed government troops.
Turkish officials previously estimated there were some 200 to 300 Syrians crossing daily into Turkey in the last week, a sharp increase on the numbers in recent weeks.
There are now 14,000 registered Syrian refugees living in Turkey with an estimated 2,000 additional unregistered people staying with relatives.
Turkey is to open a new refugee camp near the southern town of Kilis next month to host a further 10,000 Syrians, and work has begun on another camp near the eastern end of the border at Ceylanpinar for 20,000 people, the official said.
That would bring the total capacity for Syrian refugees to some 45,000, but the official declined to say how many Turkey was expecting.
The United Nations said this week an estimated 30,000 refugees have fled Syria since the start of the conflict a year ago while hundreds of thousands are thought to be displaced within Syria. Most other refugees have gone to Jordan and Lebanon.