In just the past two days, over 2,800 refugees from Syria have crossed the border into Turkey, with the total number approaching 24,000 since the start of the uprising in March of 2011. On Friday, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that refugees fleeing Syria are becoming an “international problem.” Dabutoglu said that the rate of Syrian refugees entering Turkey has “doubled” since President Bashar al-Assad agreed to implement a 6-point peace plan proposed by Kofi Annan, special envoy to the UN and to the Arab League.
“We have spared no efforts to accommodate Syrians fleeing the violence back home, but if they continue to arrive at this rate, we will need the UN and international community to step in.”
An estimated 50,000 to 60,000 Syrians have left the country since the start of the uprising with many also fleeing to Lebanon and Jordan, says Al Jazeera. In the Turkish news media Davutoglu also noted that ”there are operations targeting civilians, particularly in Aleppo and Idlib, and that there has been a growing influx of refugees into Turkey as a result of these operations.”
Annan’s peace plan calls for a halt of armed violence by all parties by April 10. But the violence in Syria has continued unabated, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Local Coordination Committees reporting shelling in the suburb of Douma near Damascus and elsewhere near the capital. There were also reports on snipers on roofs in Damascus and the central city of Hama and of heavy fighting in villages in the province of Homs.
Reporting from Lebanon, the BBC‘s Jim Muir says that, as the ceasefire in Annan’s proposal approaches, violence appears to be escalating in Homs and in some other areas, including Idlib province in the north. Activists accuse the government of “trying to complete its crackdown come what may”; the government insists that armed rebel fighters are “exploiting the impending withdrawal” of the Syrian army.
Despite the violence, thousands of protesters marched on Friday throughout Syria and called for Assad to step down. This video shows a demonstration on April 4 in the Syrian city of Houla:
A team from the UN is currently in Damascus to negotiate having some 200-250 monitors in Syria to oversee the ceasefire. Annan is planning to travel to Tehran on April 11, the day after the ceasefire is to occur, to try to win the support of Iran, one of Syria’s allies.
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