Aleppo residents carrying their belongings at the Karaj al-Hajez passageway separating Bustan al-Qasr, under rebel control, and Al-Masharqa, controlled by the government.Ammar Abdullah/Reuters
The United Nations says more than 20,000 Syrians have arrived in Turkey so far this year, with sometimes 1,000 to 2,000 arriving daily. The U.N.'s refugee agency says it's the biggest influx since early 2013. The formal refugee camps in Turkey have been overwhelmed by the influx, and some Syrians lucky enough to enter Turkey are sleeping in the Killis bus station for lack of money to pay for a hotel or apartment. Syrians denied access to Turkey are stuck on the Syrian side of the border in no man’s land.
Civilians fleeing Aleppo say whole neighborhoods have been abandoned. Some civilians from the opposition side are fleeing to government-held parts of the city — a dangerous endeavor that involves crossing front lines and risking sniper fire.
Mahmoud said his family moved seven times during nearly three years of conflict in Aleppo before finally deciding to flee to Turkey. The exploding barrels were the last straw. "We came out by a miracle," he said. "It was very dangerous."
Before the conflict began in 2011, Aleppo was Syria’s largest city, with an estimated population of 2.3 million. Now the city is nearly split in half between the opposition and the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Khaled al-Milaji, acting head of the health department for the opposition National Syrian Coalition's aid arm in Turkey, the Assistance Coordination Unit, said the regime has dropped an average of 30 barrel bombs onto opposition held areas of Aleppo every day since Feb. 1, resulting in about 800 deaths in the city.
Those numbers can't be independently verified, but daily video footage posted on the Internet appears to document the carnage inflicted by the explosive barrels. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that on Feb. 13 alone, airstrikes and barrel bombs killed 51 people.
"It's raining TNT in Aleppo," Milaji said.