Turkish hospital gives glimpse of Syria horror as Islamic State advance

SURUC Turkey (Reuters) - Within minutes of the young woman being carried into the Turkish hospital just over the border from Syria, it became clear that her shattered skull, concealed by bloodied bandages, was too serious for the small state facility to treat.

The unconscious woman in her 20s, whose name was not known, was another victim of the increasingly bloody clashes between Islamic State militants and Kurdish forces for control of the Syrian border town of Kobani, 10 km (six miles) to the south.

Monitors estimate several hundred have died on each side since the upsurge in violence began more than two weeks ago.

Medics and doctors at the hospital in the Turkish town of Suruc are struggling to cope with the stream of wounded fighters from the Kurdish YPG militia who are being carried across the frontier from Syria with shrapnel or bullet wounds.

“She’s a YPG fighter. Five or six have so far come today, around 30 came yesterday,” an orderly said as they rushed her inside. After initial treatment, she was ferried back out and drivers were ordered to take her the 190 km (120 miles) to Diyarbakir, the largest city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.

“She had a brain injury. Her skull is shattered. It doesn’t look good,” a doctor said as the ambulance raced away, sirens wailing.

Dozens of medical staff, anxious relatives and curious onlookers gathered in the courtyard of the little hospital as more victims were brought in.

On Sunday, the violence spilled over into Turkey, when five members of a Turkish family were injured by a stray projectile that slammed into their house close to the border.


Wounded fighters make up just a fraction of the cases being handled by Turkish medics near Kobani. About 180,000 people have fled in less than three weeks, deepening the humanitarian crisis along Turkey’s south-eastern frontier, which has already seen 1.2 million people cross since the start of the war in Syria.

Once they do arrive, many families are forced to sleep rough or camp with hundreds of others in mosques or abandoned shops. The hospital corridors are crowded with everyone from the elderly in wheel-chairs to babies cradled by their mothers.

“We came to Turkey with our babies and families five days ago. We got scared as the clashes got closer,” said one headscarved mother in a green dress, holding five-month-old Mustafa in her arms.

Some did not make it safely across. Last week four children were injured, two of them seriously, after straying into a minefield on the border as they waited to come into Turkey.

Those who’ve fled the fighting say that Kurdish resistance remains strong in Kobani, despite Islamic State forces pounding the town with heavy artillery and advancing to its outskirts.

“Everybody is fighting in Kobani. There are women my age who have been given hand grenades to throw,” said 63-year-old Alife Ali, as she waited in the hospital, a small child in her arms.

“Our people dug a 5 meter deep and wide ditch around the town to protect it. We will fight to the last person.”

But there are signs in Suruc hospital of how desperate that fight is becoming, with even the untrained being thrust into the frontline, to try to stem the radical Islamists’ advance.

Hassan waited anxiously outside a room for a 20-year-old female relative, wounded in the fighting.

“A bullet went in here and came out the other side,” Hassan said, a line from one hip to the other.

“She took up arms with the YPG. They gave her a gun though she had no experience,” he added.

His mother, sitting next to him, spoke up at the mention of Islamic State.

“God curse them. They are worse than monsters. Look at what they did to our people,” she said weeping.

Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonny Hogg and Stephen Powell