Syrians in desperate flight across border as Turkey vows greater force and U.S. sends 150-strong task force to Jordan
Syrian refugees are crossing the border to Turkey after shelling on a Syrian town intensify the conflict.
The U.S has responded to the escalating violence between Syria and Turkey by sending a 150 strong specialist task force to its ally Jordan, after concerns that the violence might spread across the southern border as well as in the north.
The news comes after the UN reported that 335,000 Syrian refugees have registered with the organisation, an increase by ten times since March.
Men, women and children today crossed the narrow Orontes river which marks the Syrian-Turkish border near the village of Hacipasa in Hatay province.
Villagers helped the families by ferrying them in small metal boats as they fled the violence in the Syrian border town of Azmarin where several mortar shells landed early on Wednesday.
As heavy machine gun fire could be heard from the Turkish side, smoke rose into the sky and cries of 'God is greatest' rang out between the bursts of gunfire, a witness said.
'The firing started getting intense last night. Some people have been killed, some are lying wounded on the road,' said Mune, a 55-year-old woman who crossed the river to Hacipasa.
Fleeing: A Syrian family have boarded one of the small metal boats used to ferry Syrian refugees over to the Turkish side, helped by villagers from Hacipasa
Escape: Refugees are getting in to boats on the Syrian side
Ambulances and medical aid waited on the Turkish side of Orontes, taking wounded to the main city of Antakya or district hospitals.
'Don't take me across, take me back. I want to return and fight,' said one man in a blood-stained shirt, being carried from the river on a stretcher.
The news of shelling on Azmarin came just before Turkey's military chief of staff said that Turkey will respond with greater force if Syrian fire continues to hit its territory.
After several attacks from their neighbour, Turkish military forces have responded across the border to northern Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad's forces have been battling rebels.
To safety: Scores of Syrian civilians have been crossing the river in an attempt to escape fighting in Azmarin and surrounding villages on the Syrian side
Conflict: Civilians flee the Syrian civil war in their thousands, a conflict which now threatens to spread to Turkey
‘We responded but if it continues we will respond with greater force,’ Turkey's Chief of Staff, General Necdet Ozel, told state television TRT.
It is not clear whether the shells that have hit Turkish territory in the past week have been aimed towards the nation or if Syrian troops have made mistakes when attacking rebel positions.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Tuesday the military alliance had plans in place to defend Turkey. He gave no further details, but a senior U.S. defense official said NATO would likely react if Turkey made a request for assistance.
Jordan and other neighbouring countries are increasingly worried that the violence will spill over to countries south of Syria.