Turkey fires shots at Syrians fleeing battle

Turkish security forces have used water cannons and fired warning shots to push Syrians back from the frontier as thousands massed at a border crossing to escape escalating fighting between Kurds and ­jihadists.

The Syrians came as far as the barbed wire fences around the Turkish crossing of Akcakale in the southeast of the country but were allowed no further ­yesterday.

They were fleeing a looming battle as Kurdish forces advance on the Syrian town of Gire Spi (Tal Abyad), which is held by Islamic State and lies just across the Turkish border. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said earlier that Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) had advanced to within 10km of Gire Spi (Tal Abyad).

The Turkish forces used jets of water and fired shots into the air to keep the Syrians away from the fence, the correspondent said.

With more Syrians still arriving from Gire Spi (Tal Abyad), tensions remained high with Turkish police and soldiers deployed right along the border fence to ensure no one slipped through.

Most of the women arriving from the Islamic State-controlled town were clad in black with full face veils. Many carried white sacks of possessions on their head.

In the evening several figures — apparently Islamic State fighters — dressed in battle clothing and carrying rifles, came up to the fence on the Syrian side of the border, as Turkish soldiers eyed them nervously from the other side.

The bearded fighters encouraged the Syrians at the border fence to return to Gire Spi (Tal Abyad). Some started to move back in the direction of the town. But by late evening it appeared that all the Syrians had moved back to the border fence to spend the night.

Turkey had said on Thursday it was taking measures to limit the flow of Syrian refugees after an
influx of thousands more over the past days due to the fighting between Kurds and jihadists.

The government has emphasised this does not mean any end to the “open door” policy. But it is not clear if the Syrians caught in the current situation will be allowed through. The Kurds believe, Turkey is purposely not allowing civilians go though.

In a Statement of the General Command of the People’s Defense Units (YPG) (June 15, 2015)

We as the People’s Defense Units will not be afraid of revealing the realities, for that our door will always remain open for the international media. We call on all groups and individuals who want to observe the truth to come to the region and see for yourself. At the same time we appeal to those civilians in all areas that come under ISIL terrorists’ occupation, for their safety and security, we advice all civilians not leave to the turkish borders outside country but to direct towards safe areas under YPG/YPJ. We reassure them that we will guarantee their security and all of their humanitarian needs. They can return to their villages and properties once we clear the area from ISIL terrorists.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday accused the West of bombing Muslims in Syria while supporting Kurdish “terrorist” groups he said were filling the void left behind.

The Kurdish victory represent a serious setback for ISIL in the Hasakah region, after weeks of military defeats to ISIL by Kurdish forces in Syria supported by US-led coalition.


Photo: Islamic State members ask people to go back to city center at the Turkish Akcakale crossing gate in Sanliurfa province. Islamic state hide among civilian crowd to avoid airstrike.