Some 877 Syrians have fled to Turkey in the past 24 hours, a Foreign Ministry official told Today's Zaman. A total of 424 have crossed the border at Reyhanlı, a town in the border province of Hatay, and the remaining 453 entered Turkey from Yayladağı, another border town in the same province, according to the official. Nineteen of the refugees were injured.
Some of the Syrians who fled to Turkey are reportedly military personnel, including one lieutenant colonel and a sergeant major, according to the Anatolia news agency.
It has been difficult to ascertain the total number of refugees currently given shelter in Turkey as some of them have also been returning to Syria. Data released by the Prime Ministry's Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate (AFAD) on Thursday showed that there are 29,441 Syrian nationals in Turkey, including those receiving treatment in Turkish hospitals. According to AFAD, 789 Syrians fled to Turkey on June 13-14 while 256 Syrians voluntarily returned during the same period.
AFAD further said that 51,216 Syrians have crossed into Turkey since the unrest first began in the country more than a year ago, with 21,775 later returning to Syria.
The recent increase in the number of refugees appears to be linked to reports that the Syrian army is preparing for a major offensive in the northern city of Aleppo. Local sources close to the Free Syrian Army (FSA) of the Syrian armed opposition, based in Hatay province, earlier told Today's Zaman that 2,000 Syrians are waiting to enter Turkey at the Yayladağı and Reyhanlı border gates. Sources claim that the FSA has sent families and relatives to the border, planning to clear the region of civilians in preparation for a large-scale war in the country.
Turkish officials said late last year that the Turkish military could establish a buffer zone if the Syrian army advanced on a city, such as Aleppo, close to the Turkish border. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also warned the Syrian regime about massing Syrian forces near Aleppo, saying earlier this week that such a deployment could be a "red line" for Syria's northern neighbor Turkey "in terms of their strategic and national interests."