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Syria

Thousands of Syrians flee to Turkey overnight

Thousands of Syrians have crossed into Turkey in the last 24 hours to flee the violence in their country. A group of Syrian soldiers, along with their families, also defected to Turkey overnight.

A Syrian refugee woman and a boy stand outside a tent at Yayladagi refugee camp in Hatay province, near the Turkish-Syrian border November 8, 2012. REUTERS/Murad Sezer (TURKEY - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION)

Syrien Bürgerkrieg Flüchtlinge im Flüchtlingslager Yayladagi

A Turkish government official said on Friday that more than 5,000 Syrians crossed into Turkey overnight after heavy clashes near the border.

The Syrians reportedly crossed into the Turkish border provinces of Mardin, Sanliurfa and Hatay, raising the number of refugees in the country to close to 120,000.

Turkish state media also reported on Friday that a group of Syrian soldiers, including two generals and 11 colonels, defected from the Syrian army to Turkey overnight. It was the biggest mass desertion of senior soldiers from President Bashar Assad's forces in months.

The officers crossed Turkey's border province of Hatay with their families and other foot soldiers, making a total of 71 people, state-run news agency said.

They were taken to Apaydin camp in Hatay, where Turkey is sheltering other officers who have defected from Assad's army.

Meanwhile, Syria's opposition groups, under pressure to forge a united front against Assad, resumed talks in Qatar on the creation of an all-inclusive leadership body.

Officials say progress is being made and a new chief of the opposition groups may be named later Friday.

hc/mz  (AP, Reuters, AFP)