POST TIME: 24 February, 2020 12:24:40 AM
Ladder to safety
Syrians eye escape over Turkey border
AFP, Kafr Lusin, Syria

Syrians eye escape over
Turkey border

Abu Jabber planned to escape the Syrian regime's advance: he built a ladder from rusty metal for him and his 11 children to climb over the Turkish border wall. Six months ago, the family fled deadly fighting in Idlib province of northwest Syria, seeking shelter near the border village of Kafr Lusin, where dozens of families live in an informal camp for the displaced.

Newcomers live in tents while others, like Abu Jabber, his children and his parents, have built makeshift homes at the foot of a cement wall that separates Turkey from Idlib province. Turkey, which already hosts the world's largest number of Syrian refugees with around 3.6 million people, has placed barbed wire and watchtowers along the wall to prevent any more crossings.

Ankara fears that an offensive launched in December by Russian-backed Syrian government forces against the last major rebel and jihadist bastion in Syria could spark another influx.

The government has this month escalated its offensive and seized dozens of villages and towns in Idlib and the neighbouring province of Aleppo.

“When I saw that the situation was getting worse, I decided to build a ladder,” said Abu Jabber, standing outside his new home among the olive groves of Kafr Lusin.

“I did this in case the regime makes further advances,” he explained, undaunted by the formidable fortifications erected by Turkish authorities to keep his and other displaced families at bay.

“We will climb over the wall to protect the lives of our children,” he said, pointing to the do-it-yourself ladder he made with bits of rusty metal.

Abu Jabber said there was no other solution. “Either they (regime forces) kill us all or we enter Turkey.”

He and his family have been displaced several times since Syria’s war erupted almost nine years ago.

Half of the three million people living in Idlib are displaced from other regions of Syria who abandoned areas recaptured from rebels by government forces.

Abu Jabber, whose home was originally in Hama province, said his 10-year-old son, who has an amputated hand, lost an eye in regime bombardment. Trying to escape to Turkey also carries its risks.

Turkish border guards have sporadically opened fired on Syrian civilians attempting to cross the border illegally.