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Monday, June 13, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Turkey hit with 10,000 Syrian refugees in a week

ANKARA — Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Erdogan is alarmed by the influx of thousands of Syrians fleeing the crackdown of President Bashar Assad.


Officials said Erdogan's government is weighing approval of a buffer zone established by the military that would check the flow of refugees.

About 10,000 Syrians were believed to have fled to Turkey over the last week amid heavy shelling by Assad forces. Most of the refugees, housed in tents, were concentrated in Turkey's Hatay province, long disputed by the Assad regime.

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"There is a realization that Turkey has to act quickly and unilaterally," an official said.

Officials said a buffer zone would host Syrian refugees along a 10-kilometer wide strip along the Turkish border, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the military would ensure security from the Assad regime and help provide water and basic services.

On June 10, about 2,700 Syrians, many of them from Jisr Al Shughour, were said to have fled to Turkey. About 100 of them were reported injured and taken to hospitals in Hatay. Over the last 10 weeks, more than 1,300 Syrians have been killed in the revolt against Assad.

The flow of Syrian refugees has resulted in a harder line by Ankara toward the Assad regime. Erdogan, after initially defending the regime in Damascus, has become increasingly critical of Assad.

Over the last two weeks, Ankara has hosted meetings by the Syrian opposition. The Turkish prime minister also said he would not close the border to fleeing Syrians.

"How long is it going to be like this?" Erdogan asked.

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