Syrian rebels attacked two towns near the Turkish border on Friday, precipitating an unprecedented flow of refugees into Turkey.
Reports say 11,000 Syrian civilians poured over the border on Friday — three times the usual number — and that the human wave has hardly slackened.
Also affected are the borders with Lebanon and Jordan.
Vast, sudden waves of refugees usually mean the violence raging in Syria has veered especially close to one of its borders, Wilkes said. Scores of refugees showed up wounded over the last 24 hours; two have died.
“The numbers are increasing by the hour,” Wilkes said. “The Turkish government says it can take weeks or even months to build a camp. But it can take only hours to fill them.”
A Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of government rules, told the Associated Press that most were escaping fighting in the towns of Harem and Ras al-Ayn. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition group based in London, reported rebels had stormed Ras al-Ayn and taken over the military and security forces, killing at least 20 members of Syrian security forces and capturing others.
“The fate of the captured governor and 25 police officers are still unknown,” the group said on Facebook.
The Anadolu state news agency in Turkey reported more than two dozen Syrian soldiers, including two generals, were among the thousands of people who had fled to Turkey with their families. Turkish media showed people parting and climbing over barbed wire to cross the border.
The outpouring brings the number of Syrians registered or waiting to register as refugees to more than 408,000 people; the total number who have fled is believed to exceed 700,000 people. On top of that, the U.N. estimates at least 1.2 million people are displaced inside Syria.
So far, Turkey says they have received only about 35% of the aid needed to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe when winter settles in over the next 6 weeks. Many of the refugees have no shelter, little food, no medical care, and no protection from the fighting that occasionally spills over into their camps.
Combined with the internally displaced persons, hundreds of thousands of civilians are at risk of freezing to death unless aid can reach them in time.