Thousands of people crossed into Turkey from Syria yesterday to flee the fighting between ISIS and Kurdish and opposition forces over control of the Syrian border town of Tel Abyad.
According to a Reuters photographer present at the scene, many of those fleeing were women and children who entered Turkey through a temporary crossing between the two official border posts. He added that the crossing point was overseen by Turkish security forces.
A Turkish official said that 2,000 refugees were being registered yesterday after over 6,800 entered the area last week. "They were fleeing from the advances by Kurdish YPG forces as well as aerial bombardment by the US and its Arab allies trying to help the Kurds to push back ISIS," he added.
The north-eastern area of Syria is strategically important because it links the areas under ISIS control in Syria and Iraq. The militant group has taken control of the border city of Hasaka; it launched a counter-attack in the city, which is divided into zones run separately by the government of President Bashar Al-Assad and a Kurdish administration.
Syria's Kurds are seeking to expand their control over an area stretching from Kobani to Qamishli, which they consider to be part of a future Kurdish state. Turkey has expressed its fear that this will encourage separatism in its own adjacent Kurdish-majority area.
The Turkish official pointed out that all of the refugees were either Syrian or Iraqi Arabs; none were Kurds. "A significant demographic change is taking place in the area. Arabs are being pushed away as Kurds flow in."