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Syria defections surge: reports

Turkey says 20,000 Syrian troops have defected in less than a month, and 1,000 refugees reportedly crossed from the besieged north over the past 24 hours.

refugees turkey syria mar 14 2012Enlarge
Syrian refugees who fled the violence in Idlib region, walk amid make-shift tents in a camp set by the the Turkish army near Kavalcik, on the border between Syria and Turkey, on March 14, 2012. Turkey has started building a new camp site for 20,000 Syrian refugees in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa, Turkish officials said, after the latest influx of refugees came as Syrian troops overrran the northwestern city of Idlib. (Frederic Lafargue/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/120315/syria-defections-surge-reports