KUCUK KENDIRCILER, Turkey — The number of refugees seeking shelter in Turkey from the Islamic State’s advance across northern Syria has hit 100,000 in less than a week, an official said Sunday.
The head of Turkey’s disaster management agency, Fuat Oktay, said the figure represents Syrians escaping the area near the Syrian border town of Kobane, where fighting has raged between Islamic State and Kurdish fighters since Thursday.
The U.N. refugee agency said earlier Sunday that about 70,000 Syrians had crossed into Turkey in the past 24 hours, and that it was preparing for the arrival of hundreds of thousands more. Those are significant numbers, even in the context of the 1.5 million refugees who have fled to Turkey in the past 31 / 2 years.
Turkish authorities said they were ready to deal with the influx.
“We have been prepared for this,” disaster management agency spokesman Dogan Eskinat said. “We are also prepared for worse.”
The refugees, most of them ethnic Kurds, have been desperate to reach Turkey and escape the advance of religious extremists barreling across Syria.
On Sunday, heavy clashes broke out between the Islamic State and Kurdish fighters only a few miles from Kobane, also known as Ayn Arab.
The Islamic State was bombarding villagers with fire from tanks, artillery and multiple rocket launchers, said Nasser Haj Mansour, an official at the defense office in Syria’s Kurdish region.
“They are even targeting civilians who are fleeing,” Haj Mansour said by telephone.
As refugees flooded in, Turkey closed the border crossing in Kucuk Kendirciler to Turkish Kurds. Local police said they were seeking to prevent Kurdish fighters from entering Syria. Hundreds of Kurdish fighters entered Syria from Turkey on Saturday, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Kucuk Kendirciler is a small village about a mile from Kobane.
Clashes broke out as Kurds trying to approach the crossing from inside Turkey scuffled with security forces, which attacked crowds with tear gas, paint pellets and water cannons.
The state-run Anadolu Agency reported that Kurdish protesters had hurled stones at the security forces.
The pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions’ Party said two people were seriously injured in the clashes, including one Kurdish legislator who was hospitalized. The party said the Kurds were protesting the Islamic State’s attacks, as well as the border closure.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Islamic State has taken control of 64 villages in northern Syria since the fighting began there early Wednesday.
It said the fate of 800 Kurds from these villages is unknown, adding that the Islamic State executed 11 civilians, including two boys.
UNHCR spokeswoman Selin Unal said that most of those coming across the border are Kurdish women, children and the elderly.
She urged the international community to step up its aid for Syrian refugees in Turkey.
“Turkey is assisting with all needs, but it’s huge numbers,” she said.