Thousands Of Syrians Fleeing ISIS Pour Into Turkey

The United Nations estimates some 66,000 Syrians on the run from ISIS militants have crossed the border into Turkey.

Thousands Of Syrians Fleeing ISIS Pour Into Turkey
United Nations / E. Dorfman

In just 24 hours, tens of thousands of Syrian refugees on the run from ISIS have streamed into Turkey.

Turkey, which shares a border with Syria, is already home to an estimated 1.2 million Syrian refugees. That number could increase even more if ISIS manages to expand its reach along the Turkish border. (Video via United Nations

Which it looks poised to do. An estimated 66,000 residents of the Syrian border town of Kobani fled this weekend from what one Kurdish official described as the fiercest and most barbaric attack in its history.” (Video via Euronews

That's prompted hundreds of Kurdish fighters to make the opposite trip — leaving Turkey for Syria to defend Kurdish villages under siege by ISIS.  

Villagers who managed to escape the fighting were at first refused passage into Turkey — officials instead offering them aid on the Syrian side of the barbed wire border fence.  (Video via Voice of America

But following protests, Turkey decided Friday to open its frontier to the Kurdish refugees. Which is pretty significant, given the Turkish government’s decades-long conflict with the Kurds.

As the BBC’s Mark Lowen writes: “The fact that Turkey is now accepting tens of thousands of Kurdish refugees is a sign of how the rise of Islamic State is shifting allegiances in this region.”

The scene at the border stands in stark contrast to this joyous reunion at a Turkish airport Saturday. Forty-nine Turkish hostages were recently freed from ISIS in what Turkey described as a covert rescue operation. (Video via CBS

Turkey had been reluctant to pledge military support to the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS — citing the safety of its hostages.  Now that they're free, it’s unclear whether Turkey will change its stance.