Syrian troops and armored vehicles are sweeping through villages in an advance towards the Turkish border, in an apparent bid to assert more control over the area, triggering a flood of crossings into Turkey.
Soldiers reportedly drove through the village of Kherbet al Jouz, just 500 metres away from the Turkish border, where thousands of people are estimated to be hiding from a military crackdown in the restive northwestern Idlib province.
The Turkish Red Crescent said that 600 people who have been living in makeshift camps just short of the Turkish border fled across it Thursday morning, the FT reports.
Witnesses said more Turkish troops also could be seen at the border Thursday, as security tightened, the Wall Street Journal reports
There were also unconfirmed reports that Syrian forces were firing machine guns randomly in the nearby village of Managh, Al Jazeera reports.
The U.N. refugee agency, meanwhile, said there had been "a remarkable increase" in the number of Syrians seeking refuge in Turkey.
The number, to be released tomorrow, is likely to be much higher than the 600 estimated by the Red Crescent to have arrived since the last count early Wednesday, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Metin Corabatir said, Bloomberg reports.
A spokesman for Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Agency estimated that the number of Syrians taking refuge in Turkey by late afternoon Thursday was close to 11,000.
The Turkish and Syrian foreign ministers, meanwhile, discussed the crossings in a phone call, Turkey's state news agency Anadolu Ajansi reported.