Turkey Fears Syrian Conflict Spilling Over Border
Turkey has expressed fears that the bloodshed from the growing civil war in Syria could spill over its border.
“We are disturbed by the possibility that it could spread to us,” Turkey's Deputy Foreign Minister Naci Koru said Wednesday in an interview on state-run TRT television.
More than 29,500 Syrian refugees have fled through that border to the safety of Turkey in the past year, officials in Ankara have said. At least two thousand of those arrived within the past 48 hours, a major upswing in the number of people fleeing the violence at one time, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
Among the latest wave of refugees were 43 wounded victims who required hospitalization, according to Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal. Some 50,000 Syrians have sought shelter across the border in Turkey over the past 15 months, Turkish officials estimate, but thousands returned to their homes, or moved elsewhere.
There have been similar flights to safety by Syrian refugees who have crossed borders into Lebanon and Jordan as well. Both countries are also expressing their concerns over the growing incidents of violence that have spilled over their borders.
In Lebanon, sectarian rifts which have existed for decades have widened even further as a result of the current Syrian civil war, and in one village a rebel activist supporter was kidnapped on June 11 by a gang of pro-Alawite Lebanese, prompting other villagers to block the road used as a border crossing between the two countries.
On April 9, two Turkish officials were wounded when clashes between Syrian government troops and opposition forces spilled across the border and into a refugee camp set up in Turkey. That same day, 21 people were killed in the fighting outside the camp, and two others were injured; a Lebanese cameraman was also killed while filming near the Syrian border along his own country.
In response, Turkey has begun to tighten its own borders, and closely question the smugglers who were bringing in the refugees.
Officials have started to suspect that some of those refugees might be members of the PKK terrorist organization that promotes a separatist movement in southeast Turkey. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's late father, Hafez al-Assad, encouraged the emigration of Kurdish members of the movement to Turkey in the 1990s.
International leaders -- including those in Israel -- have also expressed increasing concerns over the rise of the Al Qaeda terrorist organization in Syria, as the Assad regime loses its grip over the country and no clear unified opposition authority takes control.
Humanitarian aid organizations and the United Nations have estimated that at least 13,500 civilians have been killed in the violence since the revolt was ignited in March 2011 by the regionwide Arab Spring uprisings that swept the Middle East.
It is not possible to obtain more detailed information due to the restrictions placed on U.N. agencies, journalists and other media by the Assad regime, however; at least nine journalists have been killed -- including several from the United States -- attempting to gain more accurate information through coverage of events in the country, and numerous others have gone missing or been trapped and/or wounded.