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40,000 Syrians flee regime’s Aleppo advance

A man rides a motorcycle past damaged buildings in al-Myassar neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria January 31, 2016. (Reuters)

Nearly 40,000 Syrian civilians have fled a regime offensive near Aleppo, a monitor said Thursday, as Turkey warned it was bracing for a wave of tens of thousands of refugees.

The exodus began on Monday after government forces began an operation that has severed the main rebel supply route into the city and broken an opposition siege on two regime-held towns, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

In London, where a donor conference for Syria is being held, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, whose government fiercely opposes the Syrian regime, also voiced concern at the huge numbers fleeing the army’s offensive.

“Now 10,000 new refugees are waiting in front of the door of Kilis because of air bombardment and attacks against Aleppo,” he said, referring to a Turkish town on the Syrian border.

He added that “60 to 70,000 people in the camps in north Aleppo are moving towards Turkey.”

The Britain-based Observatory said the displaced had fled to different parts of Aleppo province, including the Kurdish town of Afrin, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) northwest of the area where the offensive has taken place.

Others have taken refuge in the west of the province, with the towns hosting them overwhelmed and some forced to sleep in the open, said the monitor, which relies on a network of sources on the ground.

Thousands more have fled to the northern town of Azaz or were sleeping in nearby fields along the border with Turkey, which is currently closed, Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.

Syrian government forces and pro-regime fighters began a major offensive north of Aleppo city this week, backed by heavy Russian air strikes.

The offensive has cut the main rebel supply line from the Turkish border to the opposition-held east of Aleppo city, and ended a siege on the towns of Nubol and Zahraa along the same route.

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Last Update: Thursday, 4 February 2016 KSA 16:59 - GMT 13:59
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40,000 Syrians flee regime’s Aleppo advance
Syrian government forces and pro-regime fighters began a major offensive north of Aleppo city this week, backed by heavy Russian air strikes
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