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Syrian refugees: We did not flee for tents

Story highlights

  • An upsurge in violence around the Syrian city of Aleppo has forced thousands to flee
  • Refugees have gathered at a camp near the Turkish border crossing at Kilis
  • Turkey's open-door policy is not evident at the crossing

Syria-Turkey border (CNN)Tantalizingly close to Turkish soil, thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing an upsurge in violence have gathered at their neighbor's border.

They can see Turkey's flag fluttering in the distance, the safety they long for painfully near but closed to them.
    Long lines of tents provide some shelter from the elements but there is nothing to protect the refugees from the brutal war tearing apart their homeland.
    Turkish authorities continue to insist they have an open door policy but that most certainly doesn't seem to be the case.
    The authorities said the refugees here are being provided for on the Syrian side. They don't see a need to allow them to cross into Turkey.
    One resident, Saleh, said refugees didn't come come this far to get stuck at the border.
    "We did not come here to get tents. We do not need food or water," he said. "We want to get through and provide security for our children."

    'We thought it would be better'

    It's a dangerous journey that brought Saleh and his family to the Turkish border.
    "I have five children, my brother has six. That's 11 children and we walked with them for 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) in the middle of the night. Each time they would cry, we would have to shush them. We got shot at we had to hide in the olive groves," he said.
    "We came to the countryside. We thought it would be better but then we found ourselves under Russian bombardment."
    Like many of the others, Saleh has already been displaced multiple times by Syria's relentless violence.
    The latest arrivals at the Turkish border are the people who held out hope, not wanting to make the impossible decision to leave behind everything they have in life.
    But in recent days, tens of thousands of Syrians have fled the area around the city of Aleppo -- 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Turkey's border -- as fighting intensifies.
    Fellow refugee Mohammed said he was caught in the middle -- between ISIS militants and airstrikes.
    "ISIS had us surrounded on three sides and then the Russians were bombing us. We tried to go from different directions and finally we got here," he said.
    "My village has turned into a village of ghosts. We came here and the gate is closed," Mohammed said. "We just want Turkey to open its gates. We were surrounded, we have nowhere to go and we have nothing -- no water, power, nothing, how can we live?"

    Russian strikes

    Russian airstrikes have pounded the area around Aleppo to provide cover for forces backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as they push into rebel territory.
    Last week, Assad's forces severed the main road from the city to Turkey, cutting supply lines for rebels and NGOs. Rebel commanders warn that they can only hold out in Aleppo for a few months.
    Despite the refugee presence near the border, Turkey has allowed Syrians needing medical treatment to enter.
    At the Kilis hospital was Sadayyem Hajjar, a rebel fighter injured a few months back, who came to Turkey five days ago for surgery.
    Hajjar said the scale of the Russian strikes around Aleppo is unprecedented, with bombers descending on the city four at a time.

    Thousands displaced

    The United Nations estimated Friday that 40,000 people had already been displaced by fighting in Aleppo. It fears for another 300,000 civilians in the city's rebel-held east.
    Fierce fighting in Aleppo forces thousands to flee
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    "Now 10,000 new refugees are waiting in front of the door of Kilis because of air bombardments and attacks against Aleppo," Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Thursday in London.
    "My mind is not now in London, but in our border -- how to relocate these new people coming from Syria? Three hundred thousand Aleppo people, living in Aleppo, are ready to move toward Turkey."
    Turkey has said that it won't abandon those in need, but with 2.5 million Syrian refugees already sheltering there, the country said it is close to capacity.
    With that, the refugee camp across from Kilis appears to be taking on a more permanent feel.
    Those who have fled Syria's bloody scenes call for mercy, but for most, Turkey's flag and all it represents remains out of reach.