Massive crowds of Afghan and Arab migrants are starting to gather at the border with Greece and Bulgaria near the Turkish city of #Edirne since #Erdogan decided last night to announce that migrants will have free passage to Europe.
Turkey, faced with a possible new wave of Syrian migrants and dozens more dead Turkish soldiers in Idlib, will no longer stop Syrian refugees from reaching Europe, Reuters reports, citing a senior Turkish official.
An airstrike by Syrian government forces in Syria’s northwest Idlib region killed 33 Turkish soldiers and wounded others, the governor in Turkey’s southeastern province of Hatay said separately early on Friday.
Turkey’s communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said that in retaliation, “all known” Syrian government targets were being fired on by Turkish air and land support units.
President Tayyip Erdogan has warned that Turkey would launch a full-scale offensive to repel Syrian forces unless they pulled back.
He held an emergency meeting with staff for several hours late on Thursday to discuss the attack, which raised the military death toll to 54 so far this month.
Nearly a million civilians have been displaced in Idlib near the Turkish border since December as Russia-backed Syrian government forces seized territory from Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, marking the worst humanitarian crisis of the country’s nine-year war.
The threat to open the way for refugees to Europe would, if executed, reverse a pledge Turkey made to the European Union in 2016 and could quickly draw Western powers into the standoff over Idlib and stalled negotiations between Ankara and Moscow.
Greece sealed its key land Kastanies border crossing with Turkey Friday after Ankara declared it's allowing refugees to flee Idlib and on to Europe for at least 72 hours, in response to Syrian-Russian airstrikes killing 33 Turkish troops Thursday.
Germany's Bild newspaper reported Friday that Greece is taking further emergency measures to prevent Erdogan from effectively "opening the gates" on new waves of refugee and migrant hordes seeking entry to the EU, noting the country "completely closed off its borders with Turkey: not just for refugees, but for EVERYONE."
The newspaper said 50 naval ships, likely most of them small patrol vessels, have been deployed by the Hellenic Navy to ensure those coming out of Turkey don't get through.