The security forces at the Turkish border have been shooting at the civilians fleeing their camps in Aleppo province in northern Syria amid clashes between the Syrian rebels and the Islamic State group militants, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday. The Syrians were seeking protection in Turkey.
In the last 48 hours, at least 30,000 civilians living in about 10 camps east of Azaz near the Turkish border have fled to other camps in Bab al-Salameh on the Turkish border and to Azaz town. A total of 60,000 Syrians had taken shelter in the 10 camps, of which three have been deserted.
"As civilians flee ISIS fighters, Turkey is responding with live ammunition instead of compassion. The whole world is talking about fighting ISIS, and yet those most at risk of becoming victims of its horrific abuses are trapped on the wrong side of a concrete wall," Human Rights Watch's senior refugee researcher Gerry Simpson said.
The watchdog has asked Turkey to allow the Syrians to cross the border. The civilians began fleeing their camps after the Islamic State group, also referred to as ISIS, started advancing towards northern Aleppo on Wednesday and reportedly captured some villages on Thursday.
After taking over one of the camps on Thursday, ISIS forced around 10,000 civilians to leave. "ISIS arrived and used a loudspeaker to tell us we all had to leave. They said we had nothing to fear and that we should all go east, into ISIS territory. We left the camp but headed north through olive groves toward the Turkish border...As we approached the border wall we saw Turkish soldiers on a hill behind the wall and they just started shooting at us. They shot at our feet and everyone just turned round and ran in all directions," a camp resident said.
The residents of the camp tried to flee to Turkey; while some managed to escape to camps along the Turkish border. Others remained in their camps or returned to old villages regardless of the threat from ISIS.
"Turkey's closed border is forcing Syrian men, women, and children to dig ditches and hide to escape the horrors of war. Turkey's attempt at creating a so-called safe zone is a terrible joke for civilians cowering underground and desperate to escape Syria," Simpson said.