It is "out of the question" for Turkey to evacuate its military observation posts in Syria's Idlib, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on Tuesday, after Russian and Syrian forces intensified their bombardment of targets in the northwestern province.
Turkey has 12 such posts in Idlib, and at home it hosts some 3.7 million Syrian refugees, the largest refugee population in the world. It fears another wave from the region, where up to three million Syrians live in the last significant rebel-held swathe of territory after a nearly nine-year civil war.
Syria's President Bashar Assad has vowed to recapture Idlib, prompting a recent wave of refugees towards Turkey's border.
The United Nations said last week that 235,000 civilians had fled their homes in rebel-held northwestern Syria during a Russian-backed campaign of airstrikes and shelling this month.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the exodus had taken place between Dec. 12 and 25.
Most people had fled the city of Maarat al-Numan, towns and villages in southern Idlib province, Idlib city, and camps along the Syrian-Turkish border, OCHA said.
Moscow and Damascus deny claims of indiscriminate bombing of civilians, saying say they are fighting jihadist militants.
- Aid group says Syria's Idlib at 'breaking point' and warns of more displaced
- Trump warns Russia, Syria, Iran against killing civilians in Idlib, praises Turkey for working to stop 'carnage'
- Over 230,000 people flee Idlib in two-week Russian-backed offensive, UN says
Rescue services and witnesses say hostilities have left many towns in ruins and knocked out dozens of medical centers.