Seeking safe haven, Syrians converge on Turkish border

Syrians fleeing attacks by Russia and Assad regime – many on foot in freezing weather – gather at Turkey’s border in hopes of finding safe haven

Waves of Syrian refugees fleeing the government-led onslaught are fighting for survival in makeshift camps near the Turkish border.

Braving severe winter conditions, most refugees have arrived on foot in desperate conditions.

On Feb. 3, regime forces based in central Aleppo captured the western towns of Nabul and Zahraa, effectively cutting off the supply lines between Turkey and Aleppo. As a result, nearly 15,000 people fled the cities for the safer Azaz district. Thousands are now waiting in front of the Bab al-Salaam/Oncupinar border crossing to enter Turkey.

Syrians continue to enter Turkey by the thousands, in search of safety. Most refugees report that their houses have been destroyed by Russian airstrikes.

Forced to flee the heavy Russian bombardment, Syrians have been moving to secure areas carrying just a few pieces of personal belongings. Struggling to find shelter against the harsh winter elements, most families are huddled up in mosques and cars, anywhere, to keep their children warm.
The less fortunate sleep outside in the freezing cold wrapped in whatever blankets they can find.

The Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) is setting up tents at the Bab al-Salaam border crossing, which stretches approximately 20 kilometers from the border. The foundation is also providing food for nearly 30,000 internally displaced refugees.

Many Syrians fleeing to the safer regions near the Turkish border are surviving by the help of aid sent by Turkey, which they call “the last hope.”

Nadim Shamil told Anadolu Agency that they were forced to abandon their home in Aleppo due to the indiscriminate Russian airstrikes. Their family is now living in a tent provided by IHH.

“We’ve been here for 20 days. Our children are cold. Yesterday, I witnessed the death of three babies due to cold weather,” he said.

The Shamil family is just one of thousands that have lost everything due to the Russian aerial bombardment.
“Turkey has reached out to the desperate Syrians since the very beginning of the war,” Shamil said. “It has opened its doors for our people.”

“Now, we want Turkey to open its door for us as well. We are aware that it has reached its limits,” he added.

Mahmood Mohammed had to flee with his seven children because he lived in a district targeted by the Russian airstrikes. His house was damaged during the bombardment.

“I’m looking for shelter for my children. The region we had been living in is no longer safe. We are really in a precarious situation. We have to live in mud,” Mohammed said.

Burak Karacaoglu, spokesman for IHH’s Aleppo office, has been drawing attention to the increasing influx of refugees into the border region. He stated that IHH is setting up 200 tents a night, and that there is a need for more food, water, and blankets.

Since Sept. 30, Russia — a close ally of Bashar al-Assad — has targeted a number of civilian areas in Syria, according to U.S. officials.

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