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Israeli security officials said on Wednesday that they believe Turkey is moving toward a military intervention in Syria, in order to create a secure buffer zone for opposition activists.

Thus far, Ankara has given shelter to some 20,000 refugees who escaped the deadly crackdown by Syrian President Bashar Assad's security forces, and also housed Syrian opposition groups.

Israeli officials said that according to an updated assessment of the situation, Turkey is expected to set up secure buffer zones on its border with Syria that would allow armed opposition groups to organize against the Syrian regime from bases protected by the Turkish army.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently hardened his stance against Assad and suggested for the first time the possibility of foreign intervention in Syria.

Wide protests against Assad's regime have been ongoing across Syria, but in recent weeks the focal point of the armed resistance by army defectors was in the three northern cities close to Turkey's border - Idlib, Homs, and Hama.

According to various reports, the Syrian army has lost control in the Idlib area, which has the potential to become an independent, rebel-controlled zone, like the Libyan city of Benghazi, which was seized by the rebels early in the revolution and became the temporary base for the opposition movement.