ANKARA, Turkey – Senior U.N. officials say 11,000 Syrians have fled the country in the past 24 hours in what they call an unusual spike in the number of refugees.
U.N. refugee agency spokesman Adrian Edwards told The Associated Press that the refugees had crossed into the Turkish border province of Sanliurfa. The U.N. had registered 5,000 of them so far and was in the process of registering the others, he said.
"These are people fleeing fighting between the (rebel) Free Syrian Army and the government of Syria, including more than 70 wounded and two who are reported to have died," Edwards said.
A Turkish official said the Syrians were mostly escaping fighting in the town of Harem, in Syria's northern Idlib province as well as violence in the town of of Ras al-Ayn, in the northeastern province of al-Hasaka, where the rebels had wrested control from President Bashar Assad's forces. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules that bar civil servants from speaking to journalists without prior authorization.
The new arrivals would bring the number of refugees in Turkey to around 120,000.
Earlier, the state-run Anadolu Agency said a group of Syrian soldiers, including two generals and 11 colonels, had fled to Turkey with their families and were taken to a camp that shelters military defectors, including dozens of other generals.
Anadolu Agency video footage showed Syrians jumping over and climbing through the barbed-wire fence that makes up part of the 911-kilometer (566-mile) border, to cross into the Turkish border town of Ceylanpinar.
Ceylanpinar's mayor, Ismail Aslan, told The Associated Press by telephone that the Syrian rebels on Friday took control of a security building to which regime forces had retreated, a day after the rebels took over the border crossing between Ceylanpinar and Ras al-Ayn. The regime forces shelled rebel positions on Friday morning, but the fighting had subsided by the early afternoon, he said.
Schools in Ceylanpinar were closed for a second day on Friday and residents were being told not to leave homes.
Rumors that the regime forces would launch air raids on Ras al-Ayn had precipitated the refugee influx, said another official in Ceylanpinar, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
The refugees were being taken to nearby refugee camps or were staying with Turkish relatives, he said.
The civil war in Syria has killed more than 36,000 people since an uprising against the Syrian regime began in March 2011.