Syrian refugees flee by the hundreds to Turkey


GUVECCI, Turkey - There are the makings of a refugee crisis as families escape the crackdown of the Syrian dictatorship.

A rebellion started last March against the 40-year rule of the Assad family. Now, as CBS News correspondent Liz Palmer reports, Syrians fearing an all-out government assault are fleeing by the hundreds into Turkey.

Clandestine video shows the Syrian military surrounding the town of Jisr at Shougour.

Last weekend, the Syrian government says 120 soldiers and police were shot dead here. Townspeople say the security forces were executed by fellow soldiers when they refused to fire on anti-government protestors.

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Whatever the truth, the town has emptied and the streets are deserted.

Residents, terrified the army is about to attack, are fleeing mostly on foot to safety over the Turkish border.

One distraught woman accuses the soldiers of driving her family from her home.

On the Turkish side of the border, police have been picking up the refugees from roadsides and driving them to temporary shelter in an old cigarette factory.

For the moment though, the police aren't letting journalists in to talk to them, and the refugees aren't being allowed out.

There are tents at the main refugee camp. A new group has just arrived, CBS News counted four minibuses full coming in the gates to be processed and settled in. The United Nations says there are 1,500 here already and it's impossible to tell how many are on the way.

But given that the violence between Syrian security forces and protestors is still escalating across the country, Turkey is bracing itself for a human flood.

Tomorrow is Friday, the day of rest in the Muslim world. It's been the day where protesters gather after prayers at the mosque, so it could be an especially ugly confrontations all over Syria.

The people in this tiny village say they see the Syrians coming through the farms and the fields - some with gunshot wounds and other wounds. They're being taken to hospitals here.

It simply can't accept thousands and thousands of refugees. In the next few days, we could see big pressure from the Turkish government on Damascus and start talking to the protesters.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."