Syrian troops fire on refugees fleeing Turkey

Syrian troops fire on refugees fleeing Turkey

Syrian troops have reportedly fired on a group of civilians, including women and children, fleeing to Turkey, but no causalities reported.

State-run Anatolia news agency reported late on Wednesday that Syrian troops have started firing on a group of people trying to escape to Turkey, fleeing violence in Syria. They were trying to cross the Öncüpınar border post in Turkey's southern province of Kilis through using areas full of landmines Today's Zaman reported.

The report said there was a short-lived panic among the group when bullets were whizzing and some of them hit containers where Syrians live.

It was not immediately clear if anyone died or injured in the Syrian side. Those who could make to the Turkish side were taken to the refugee camp.

Fleeing a year-long crackdown on anyone who opposes the government, the refugees had hoped to find sanctuary just inside the Turkish border. But instead, on the eve of a UN-backed ceasefire, they say the bloodshed they were seeking to escape has come to their doorstep, spreading fear and the occasional stray bullet among thousands of men, women and children.

"The last two nights we've been right next to the fighting," 26-year old Tarek told Reuters, who fled the town of Jisr al-shughur nine months ago.

"As soon as people in the camp hear a gunshot now, they dive to the floor. People on the side closest to the border go hide in the homes of those on the farther side of the camp."

The fighting continued to rage on Wednesday evening, he said.

"We couldn't see the fighters because it is dark. But we could hear heavy gunfire and I saw red tracers in the sky."

Syria has promised to observe a U.N.-backed ceasefire starting on Thursday, but its forces kept up fierce attacks on opposition neighborhoods in the hours before the deadline.

There are nearly 25,000 Syrian refugees registered in three provinces. On April 5 alone, more than 2,800 crossed over from the Syrian region of Idlib.

Most of the refugees are housed in camps in Turkey's southern provinces of Hatay and Gaziantep, but the government has moved 9,000 to a container city in Kilis province. After an unexpected surge in refugee numbers in early April, 905 refugees were settled at a new site in Şanlıurfa province.

Turkey is considering setting up a "security" or "buffer" zone along its border with Syria, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on March 16.

Syrian forces have laid mines near the frontiers of Lebanon and Turkey along routes used to escape the conflict, advocacy group Human Rights Watch has said.

On Monday, Turkey said two officials working in a refugee camp near the border were among five people wounded by gunfire coming from Syria as troops clashed with opposition fighters nearby.

Turkey warned Syria against repeating its cross-border attacks, saying that Turkey will take necessary measures if similar incidents happen again. Erdoğan told reporters on Tuesday that Turkey will do what is necessary and called the Syria's cross-border attacks a "border violation."

Under an $84 million UN appeal launched last month to support refugees for six months, 50,000 would be covered in Turkey, with a contingency plan for 100,000.

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