BEIRUT, Lebanon — Roughly 20,000 Syrian troops have defected into Turkey since February 20, a Turkish diplomat told Bloomberg News.
The report comes the same day that Turkish government officials told Reuters that over one thousand Syrian refugees had crossed into Syria over the past 24 hours, due to increased fighting around the restive northern Syria city of Idlib. The official said that Turkey expects the inflow to increase, but would not say exactly how many more the country is bracing for.
The Syrian army conducted a renewed assault on Idlib on Tuesday, The New York Times reported. The paper reported earlier this week that activists said refugees were "fleeing for the borders of Lebanon and Turkey."
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The official who briefed Bloomberg said the country's intelligence reports suggested that 40,000 defected before February 20. According to a report from International Institute for Strategic Studies, Syria's armed forces are estimated to number just under 300,000. If true, this would mean that roughly a fifth of the military has defected.
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The fleeing refugees and soldiers reportedly face dangerous challenges, according to the Times. The Syrian army was accused of mining the border in a report from Human Rights Watch.