Middle East

Turkey sends aid to Syrian refugees across border

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Media captionOne refugee said of the Syrian president: "He killed our friends... he makes us leave our homes, our families"

Turkey is for the first time supplying food across the border to people displaced within Syria as the Syrian army tightens its grips on restive areas in the north of the country.

Syrian forces have cut off the village of Bdama and closed its bakery, the only source of bread for thousands.

Witnesses say Syrian forces have set up checkpoints and are making arrests.

Turkey says more than 10,500 people have crossed over to its territory but more are camping on the Syrian side.

"Distribution of humanitarian aid has begun to meet the urgent food needs of Syrian citizens waiting on the Syrian side of our border," Turkey's emergency situations agency said in a statement on Sunday, the AFP news agency reported.

Humanitarian crisis

Activists said the army had surrounded Bdama with checkpoints and was stopping people attempting to flee towards the border.

Nonetheless, hundreds have managed to escape and are living in makeshift camps on the Syrian side.

The local Turkish governor's office said some Syrians were collecting food at the border to take to the stranded families, the Associated Press reported. The governor's office said there was no question of Turkish soldiers crossing into Syria.

Raka el-Abdu, 23, told AFP that his family fled Bdama on Saturday but he went back on Sunday morning to get bread. He reached the village using mountain routes and found it all but abandoned.

"They closed the only bakery there. We cannot get bread any more," he said. "I saw soldiers shooting the owner of the bakery. They hit him in the chest and the leg.

"The army is controlling all the entrances to the village and checking identities to arrest protesters," he added.

Turkey has condemned the crackdown by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on a three-month-old uprising by protesters demanding greater openness and an end to corruption.

Good relations between the Turkish government and President Assad have been severely strained by the crisis.

The UN says that at least 1,100 people have died since protests began, but Syrian rights groups put the overall death toll in Syria at 1,297 civilians and 340 security force members.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has sent its president to Syria for talks about the humanitarian crisis.

ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger has repeatedly asked Syria to grant the ICRC and the Syrian Red Crescent access to those wounded or detained.