ANTAKYA, Turkey (Reuters) - Some 2,350 Syrians fled across the border to Turkey from the region of Idlib within 24 hours, a Turkish official said on Thursday, more that double the highest previous one-day total.
The refugees all crossed the border close to the Turkish village of Bukulmez, the official said. Villagers on the Turkish side of the border said they could hear the sounds of heavy fighting throughout the day.
The numbers fleeing were the highest since March 15 when around 1,000 Syrians entered Turkey in one day.
Turkish leaders have said a flood of refugees or massacres of civilians by Syrian troops near its border could force them to act to prevent a humanitarian disaster.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said last month that setting up a “safe” or “buffer” zone along the border was among the options his government was considering.
But that would mean sending in troops to secure the area, which could lead to confrontation between Syrian forces and the Turkish army, the second biggest in NATO.
Erdogan said again on Thursday that Assad has not been honest in the past about his declared plans to halt the fighting.
“We will see by what he does only after April 10 if he is being true and honest now,” he said, referring to a deadline set by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan for Syrian troops to withdraw from conflict cities and comply with his peace plan.
Early on Thursday, Turkish authorities said more than 1,600 Syrians had fled to Turkey in the last two days.
Turkey-based Syrian opposition activists Omar al-Kilani and Muthana Barakat attributed that influx to the Syrian military bombarding some 10 villages around Idlib and Aleppo in the run-up to April 10 deadline set by Annan.
Both activists cited information from refugees arriving from the areas of the fighting.
Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Maria Golovnina