Turkish sweep for mines near border with Syria
Turkish sweep for mines near border with Syria (Reuters) Reuters

Turkey has accused the Syrian regime of planting landmines close to its border to target refugees fleeing President Bashar al-Assad's bloody crackdown.

Turkey's deputy prime minister Besir Atalay said Syria ws taking extreme measures to try to stop the flight of refugees.

"The Syrian administration has been planting mines, taking measures not to allow refugees to flee to the other side of the border," he told the NTV channel. "Many have lost their lives."

The US-based charity Human Rights Watch had earlier called on Damascus to stop planting landmines, which pose a risk for years to come.

Atalay said Turkey was considering setting up a buffer zone to accommodate Syrians fleeing violence in their country.

"There are more than 15,000 Syrian citizens in Turkey," he said.

About 1,000 Syrian refugees have crossed the border into Turkey in 24 hours, a Turkish official said. "We expect this to continue as long as the operation goes on in Idlib."

The total number of registered refugees has reached 14,000. Authorities expect 50,000 people in total, putting border provinces under increasing strain as authorities try to cope with the influx of refugees.

Accommodation for the refugees was being set up in the southern provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep, and Sanliurfa. There are already seven tent cities in Hatay, where some 13,500 Syrians are housed.

Preparations were also under way to establish a tent city in the Islahiye district of Gaziantep, with a capacity to absorb 10,000 people.

"We plan to set up 2,000 tents. The Turkish Red Crescent (Kizilay) will deliver blankets and tents," Gaziantep governor Erdal Ata told the Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman.