The Free Syrian Army (FSA) announced early Thursday that fighters from the armed opposition had gained control of the Ras al-Ain crossing on the Turkish border in the Hasaka province, as hundreds of Syrians continue to stream into makeshift refugee camps on the border every day.
The latest development from the FSA was reported by Al Arabiya TV. Further details are yet to be reported, but comes a day after opposition fighters fired at the Syrian presidential palace in Damascus, but missed.
Turkey said Wednesday it is in talks with NATO over the possible deployment of Patriot missiles on its soil amid the escalating conflict in neighboring Syria, but the prime minister insisted that no request has yet been made.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters during a visit to Brussels that it was only “normal” to discuss any defense measures in the face of potential risk from Syria, according to the state-run Anatolia news agency.
Turkey has already beefed up border security with tanks and anti-aircraft batteries in the face of the deadly 20-month conflict in Syria, which has occasionally spilled over into Turkish soil.
On the Turkish border, volunteer aid workers are struggling to cope with the humanitarian crisis as warplanes and helicopter gunships try to reverse significant rebel gains made in Idlib province in the war to bring down President Bashar al-Assad.
But some refugees say they would rather return home and risk death than eke out a miserable existence under canvas as winter sets in.
“We were moving from village to village but now they’re bombing everywhere,” Fatima Gharbiyeh told AFP new agency, at an unfinished camp that on Tuesday welcomed its first families at the Bab el-Hawa border crossing.
She, her husband and four children arrived in a group of 18 families trucked by rebels from Jabal al-Zawiya to the camp, just across the road from a rebel firing range and within earshot of gunfire.
It is the third camp to spring up in this tiny corner of the border. Thousands of others are already living in the villages of Atme and Qah.
The United Nations estimates that more than 2.5 million people have been affected by the war, with more than 358,000 refugees registered in neighboring countries and many more unregistered.
The newest displaced come from a roll call of the sites of some of the heaviest fighting in recent weeks, little more than an hour’s drive south through the olive groves.
They come from Kfar Nabal, where the horrifying aftermath of a heavy air strike was filmed this week, from Maaret al-Numan, and from Al-Atarib.
“The flow of refugees depends on the intensity of the bombing. Sometimes it’s 100 a day and sometimes 500. The day before yesterday we got 1,000,” said Ghassan al-Sheikh, 52, a volunteer helping refugees at the school in Atme.
The international community continues to seek out a solution for the crisis, although world leaders have come under attack by Syrian opposition groups claiming they are not doing enough to halt the bloodshed.
On Thursday, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said the UK wants to reexamine previously abandoned options in looking at ways to end the conflict in Syria.
Asked if these could include such measures as arming the Syrian rebels or creating a no-fly zone, an official from Cameron’s office declined to say which specific options would be reconsidered, according to Reuters news agency.
“The prime minister wants to come back and look at things that were on the table a year ago which we didn’t want to do then. He wants to put them back on the table,” the official said.
“We haven’t ruled anything in and we haven’t ruled anything out ... This is the moment to get some impetus going forward. We want to put everything on the table,” the official added.
Options that have been suggested in the past have included arming Syria’s rebels and creating safe havens inside Syria enforced by Western air power. A European Union arms embargo on Syria expires on Dec. 1.