It was utter chaos on the Syrian/Turkey border Sunday as thousands of Syrians fled coalition bombs and intense fighting between Kurdish fighters and ISIS militants near the border town of Tal Abyad.
Last week, the Erdogan government ordered the Turkish Army not to allow any more of the refugees to cross the border. Turkish troops fired water cannons at Kurdish civilians as they tried to escape ISIS, forcing them back into the hands of the Jihadis.
Tal Abayd is the gateway city for foreign fighters joining ISIS. Taking the city would deprive the jihadis of a direct route to bring in new foreign militants or supplies. As Kurdish YPG advanced towards Tal Abayd, liberating villages in the surrounding area, ISIS has responded by executing Kurdish civilians. This has led to the large influx of refugees attempting to flee the jihadis.
Turkey, which has seen over 13,000 Syrian refugees flee across the Turkish border since the first of June, is not anxious to take any more in.
Earlier Sunday, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus, speaking on the refugee situation at the crossing between Tal Abyad and Akçakale, claimed that those refugees were not fleeing fighting between Kurds and the Islamic State group, but were rather trying to escape to Turkey in case their villages are hit by U.S.-led coalition bombings.
He said Turkey was providing humanitarian aid to them on the other side of the border while taking in anyone who was sick or injured. Kurtulmus said Turkey has taken in more than 2 million refugees since 2011.
“We are of the opinion that there isn’t a humanitarian tragedy there,” Kurtulmus told CNN-Turk television in an interview. “Our priority is for them to remain within their border. We will continue to provide humanitarian aid to them.”
Yesterday, laughing Islamic State fighters forced desperate Syrian refugees to abandon their escape to Turkey by marching them back across the border at gunpoint.
Thousands of people have attempted to flee the across the border to escape ISIS at Tal Abyad after hearing Kurdish militia were advancing towards the town, where they fear there could be a bloodbath.
However, their escape route was blocked by heavily armed members of the terror group, who rounded up those trying to flee and marched them back into Syria.
But as fighting intensified, thousands of Syrians cut through a border fence and crossed over into Turkey.
In this Turkish border village, the refugees took by surprise the Turkish troops stationed there, who were overwhelmed by the large number of people crowding the crossing. Thousands of people had been gathering for more than a day on the Syrian side of the Akçakale border crossing before they broke through Sunday afternoon.
People threw their belongings over the fence while others passed infants into Turkey over barbed wires before following through a several-meter-wide opening in the border fence. Turkish troops later brought in reinforcements and gathered up the refugees on the Turkish side of the border, preventing them from going deeper into Turkey.
Turkey finally reversed its decision and opened the border to allow more of the refugees in, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency.
Kurdish fighters have routed ISIS militants from Suluk, a town just a few miles southwest of Tal Abyad. According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory For Human Rights, the Islamic State fighters have withdrawn and the Kurds are closing in on Tal Abyad.
The Observatory reported later that Kurdish fighters captured more villages near Tal Abyad on Sunday, adding that jihadis blew up bridges southeast and southwest of the town to prevent them from pushing forward.
“It’s only a matter of time before this area is liberated,” Naasan told The Associated Press by telephone from northern Syria, saying the Kurds surround Tal Abyad from the east, west and south. The Turkish border — and the soldiers there — now hem the extremists in from the north.
Kurdish forces have succeeded in retaking Tal Abyad, putting them within 62 miles of Raqqa – the self-declared capital of the Islamic State.