MSF urges Turkey to open border to Syrians fleeing fighting

BEIRUT (Reuters) - International medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres on Thursday urged Turkey to open its border to some 100,000 displaced Syrians trapped by fighting including a recent Islamic State advance. Fighting near the Turkish border in northern Aleppo province intensified last week when IS launched an attack against rebel groups, advancing toward the town of Azaz in clashes that NGOs said sent thousands of civilians fleeing. The United Nations says tens of thousands are already sheltering near the Turkish frontier having fled fighting earlier this year. "After countless displacements from military offensives, there is no place left for these people to escape to," MSF Middle East operations manager Pablo Marco said in a statement. "The Turkish government and the Turkish people are making an immense effort to help Syrian refugees" with Turkey hosting almost 3 million people already, he said. "But today the people of Azaz can only count on them. We ask Turkey to show this generosity once again and open its border to those trapped in Azaz." Some have fled toward Kurdish-controlled areas further west. The U.N. humanitarian agency OCHA said Kurdish authorities had allowed the displaced unimpeded access into the area, after initial reports that they were preventing civilians from entering areas under their control. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said Kurdish authorities had blocked entry for one day, in response to rebel shelling of a Kurdish-held area of nearby Aleppo, but were allowing people through again. MSF, which supports dozens of hospitals inside Syria, had to evacuate patients and staff from a hospital in the Azaz area as the fighting got closer. Brussels has promised Turkey aid, accelerated accession talks and visa-free travel into Europe in return for stopping the flow of illegal migrants to the bloc, after more than a million entered the EU from Turkey last year. (Reporting by John Davison; Editing by Richard Balmforth)