Syrian troops are tightening their grip on villages near the Turkish border, setting up checkpoints and arresting dozens in an attempt to staunch the flow of residents fleeing into Turkey, activists said on Sunday.

Human rights activist Mustafa Osso said there were concerns that thousands of displaced people crowded near the border would come under attack in the coming days.

The fighting in the Jisr al-Shughour area in the northern Idlib province started nearly two weeks ago, and has displaced thousands of people, including some 10,100 who are sheltered in three Turkish refugee camps.

An estimated 5,000 more people are camped out on the Syrian side of the border with dwindling resources as the army tightens its grip on the area, hoping to remain in Syria and avoid refugee status.

Mr. Osso said military operations were under way Sunday in the villages of Bdama and Rihan near the border.

Both villages had provided a gateway for refugees as well as medicine and foodstuffs for them.

“Security forces have arrested around 100 people from those villages in the past few days. They are trying to close off border areas with checkpoints to keep people from leaving,” Mr. Osso said.

He added that troops were surrounding the village of al-Hamboushieh, only a few kilometres from the border encampment.

“We are concerned that the thousands gathered near the border will eventually come under attack,” Mr. Osso said.

Another activist near the Turkish border said security forces today torched a bakery in the village of Bdama, about 12 miles from the Turkish border, that had been the sole source of bread for the displaced.

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