Turkey Closes Border to Syrian Refugees

Clashes erupted Sunday as Turkey closed its border with northern Syria to halt a massive influx of Kurdish refugees fleeing the juggernaut of Islamic State militants. Turkey opened its border to the refugees Friday and some reports say 100,000 Kurds have entered Turkey during the past 48 hours. 

Turkish security forces fired teargas at clusters of Syrian Kurdish refugees trying to cross the border into Turkey.  Witnesses say Turkish authorities closed their border with Syria after tens of thousands of refugees entered Turkish territory since Friday.

Arab media reports that Islamic State militants have seized 64 Kurdish towns and villages in a major onslaught during the past several days.

U.N. refugee agency officials say the flood of Kurdish refugees into Turkey is the largest such influx since the conflict in Syria began in March 2011.  U.N. officials say 100,000 Kurdish refugees have entered Turkey.  

Meanwhile, amateur video showed Kurdish fighters firing at an Islamic State tank on the outskirts of the Kurdish hub-town of Ain al Arab.  Witnesses say Kurdish fighters are mostly lightly armed, while the militants have heavy weaponry.

Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan told a press conference Sunday Turkey used political and diplomatic channels to secure the release of 49 diplomats held hostage by the Islamic State in the north Iraqi city of Mosul.  He added Turkey has discussed the establishment of a “security zone” along its border with Syria with its NATO allies.

Syrian Parliament Speaker Mohammed Jihad Laham told lawmakers Sunday in Damascus that Western nations are responsible for exacerbating the conflict in his country by aiding the Jabhat al Nusra and Islamic State terrorist groups, while claiming to fight them.

Several Kurdish political parties, including the PKK, accuse Turkey of supporting the Islamic State group, a charge Turkey denies.  The Syrian government has also accused Turkey, repeatedly, of allowing foreign fighters to enter its territory to join the ranks of the Islamic State.

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