Around 10,000 Syrians – men, women and children – are estimated to have flocked to the border area near Turkey, desperate to flee the authority’s increasingly bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations.
They bring with them all they can carry, and shocking accounts of the violence they have witnessed.
Among them are soldiers who defected rather than follow orders to fire on the people.
“I’ve been in the army for five months and this is my military ID,” Tharwat Arafat Haidar said.
He described how he was sent to Deraa, to counter what he was told were terrorist gangs.
“When we got to Deraa we found women, children and the elderly chanting for freedom.
“I saw Iranians and Hezbollah giving us orders to shoot. Those who did not obey were shot immediately in the back.”
Many of those hiding in the hills come from Jisr al-Shughour where 120 soldiers were killed – residents say after mutinying. That prompted a massive military push.
“We were peaceful,” insisted one resident. “The bullets went into our homes. We escaped, even barefoot, without water and without packing clothes. We took refuge among the trees.”
Almost 5,000 Syrians have made it to Red Crescent camps on the Turkish side.
Their tales, including accounts of a scorched earth policy with fields and famr animals being torched, have prompted Ankara to denounce President Bashir al-Assad’s crackdown as “savage”.
And Washington has accused Damascus of creating a “humanitarian crisis”.