REFUGEES crammed into fetid shelters along Syria's northern frontier appealed for protection from Bashar al-Assad's fighter jets yesterday as Turkey prepared to ask the UN to establish a buffer zone.
With thousands of civilians attempting to flee Mr Assad's air attacks, Turkey says it can no longer watch the unfolding disaster and do nothing.
"We expect the UN to step in," said Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's foreign minister. "When refugee numbers reach thousands, this problem goes beyond being an internal issue and becomes an international one. No one has the right to expect Turkey to take on this responsibility on its own."
Turkey has plans to enforce a buffer zone 12 miles into Syrian territory, but indicated it would not implement them until it received international support and the number of refugees approached 100,000. With that threshold fast approaching, Turkey wants to put the plan into effect and has already won the backing of France.
Russia and China would almost certainly oppose the move, however, meaning Turkey and its allies would have to act outside the Security Council. France conceded yesterday that any humanitarian corridor would also require a no-fly zone, a step that would require even greater military involvement.
Perhaps aware of the lack of a genuine appetite in the West for intervention, Mr Assad yesterday mocked the buffer-zone proposal as "unrealistic". In his first television interview since a bomb killed four leading security officials in July, the Syrian president also insisted the situation in the country was getting "better" even as he conceded that there was no prospect of a swift end to the war.
"I believe that talk about a buffer zone is not practical, even for those countries which are playing a hostile role [against Syria]," he said,
The flight of refugees to Turkey and Jordan has grown as fighting worsened around Syria's northern city of Aleppo and in the southern province of Deraa.
Hassan Hafez fled to the border a fortnight ago to save his children, but feels they still have no future.
"It's a miserable choice between dying quickly under Assad's bombs or dying slowly here at the border," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)