New wave of Syrian refugees flee to Turkey

Hundreds cross border after government intensifies bombardments in rebel-held areas of Hama province.

    A new wave of Syrian refugees who fled government bombardments in the central province of Hama have crossed into Turkey.

    About 700 Syrians, mostly women and children, arrived in the the Turkish border town of Reyhanli on Monday, Turkish officials have said.

    The Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency put the number of refugees who have arrived on foot or by car at 1,100.

    The influx came a day after a government warplane attacked a bakery, killing scores of people in the rebel-held town of Helfaya, which is in Hama.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based activist group, said that it has collected the names of 40 men and three women killed in the assault in Helfaya.

    One of the refugees who arrived in Turkey from Hama told the AP news agency that he and hundreds of others had fled airstrikes by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

    "His [Assad's] pretext of bombing us with his missiles is that we are all terrorists, but he is launching and dropping his missiles on our children and women," said the man, who did not give his name.

    Turkey is hosting more than 145,000 refugees from Syria, where the government relies heavily on airstrikes in its fight against advancing rebels.

    Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Reyhanli, said that the government was increasing its bombardments in Hama in response to rebels taking over more areas in the province. 

    "The government is striking back using warplanes, shelling areas," she said. 

    "We are expecting to see more refugees fleeing as the government puts up a hard fight because Hama is such a strategic province, right in the centre of Syria."

    Earlier on Monday, Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, said that the situation was "worrying" and gave no indication of progress towards a negotiated solution for the civil war.

    "The situation in Syria is still worrying and we hope that all the parties will go toward the solution that the Syrian people are hoping for and look forward to," Brahimi said after meeting with Assad in Damascus.

    The UN envoy said he and President Assad exchanged views on the crisis and discussed possible steps forward, which he did not disclose.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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