ANTAKYA, Turkey (Reuters) - More than 1,600 Syrians have fled to Turkey in the last two days, pushing the number sheltering there from the fighting in their homeland to more than 20,000, the Turkish disaster and emergency management authority said on Thursday.
The increased refugee flow coincided with reports from activists of increased fighting around the Syrian towns of Idlib and Azaz in the run-up to April 10, the date set by peace envoy Kofi Annan for a Syrian troop withdrawal from restive cities.
The numbers fleeing were the highest since March 15 when around 1,000 Syrians entered Turkey in one day. Since then, around 300 to 400 Syrians have fled each day.
Turkish leaders have said a flood of refugees or massacres of civilians by Syrian government troops on its border could force them to act to prevent a humanitarian disaster.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said last month that setting up a “safe” or “buffer” zone along the border was among the options his government was considering.
But that would mean sending in troops to secure the area, which could lead to confrontation between Syrian forces and the Turkish army, the second biggest in NATO.
A Turkish official said earlier between 800 and 900 Syrians had crossed into Turkey on Wednesday.
The total number of Syrian refugees in Turkey is now 21,285, the disaster and emergency management authority said, and of those 65 were being treated in hospital.
Reporting by Can Sezer; Writing by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Alistair Lyon