ALEPPO, Syria, Thousands of Syrian refugees gathered near the Turkish border Friday in an attempt to flee the ongoing fighting in northern Aleppo province as government forces gain on rebel-held territory.
The border between Turkey and Syria is closed but Turkish officials have said this week that they are prepared to feed and shelter refugees from the war-torn country.
Media reports estimated about 15,000 migrants looking to flee Syria. The U.N. refugee agency estimates as many as 20,000 and up to 10,000 more in Azaz, another northern town close to the Turkish border.
It’s remains unclear whether Turkey will open its border to the refugees or when, or how many it will accept.
The border between Turkey and Syria has been closed for two days, The Guardian reported.
Forces belonging to President Bashar Assad have made substantial gains in recent days, backed by Russian air cover, near Aleppo — Syria’s largest city. Rebels have held substantial ground in the province for a while but have started to relinquish some of that territory as the five-year civil war drags on.
The fighting has continued despite peace talks over the last week, mediated by U.N. special envoy Staffan de Mistura. NATO has accused Russia, an ally of Assad’s, of undermining the peace process by persisting with the strikes, which are aimed at rebel groups.
The Turkish government has also been critical of Moscow’s involvement with Syria, saying the two allies are directly responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in that country.
Russian officials, though, claim their strikes are aimed at terror groups like the Isis, which has carried out repeated attacks in Syria over the past year.
By Doug G. Ware