By Umit Ozdal
CILVEGOZU, Turkey (Reuters) – Turkey plans to set up a camp inside Syria to host people evacuated from the city of Aleppo but will continue to take the sick and wounded to Turkish hospitals, officials said on Friday.
Two potential sites, around 3.5 km (2 miles) inside Syria, have been identified for a camp with the capacity to host up to 80,000 people, two senior officials told Reuters.
“Work on the infrastructure for the camp will begin shortly,” another official from the Turkish aid organization IHH said by phone from inside Syria. The camp will be jointly set up by the Turkish Red Crescent, disaster agency AFAD and IHH.
The IHH official said evacuees had so far largely found shelter with relatives in and around Syria’s Idlib province, southwest of Aleppo, but added that work to identify those with nowhere to go was under way.
Some arrived on Friday at a clinic in Syria close to the Turkish border gate of Cilvegozu where they were tended to by Turkish aid workers, video footage obtained by Reuters showed.
“We were bombed by a plane,” said one man, his head and arm bandaged, lying on a bed hugging his young son.
“All my family were killed and all I have left is him and a daughter,” he said. He had been told his daughter had been brought to Turkey but did not know her condition or whereabouts.
Turkey has taken in 55 wounded or sick evacuees, according to Hasan Aydinlik, head of an emergency response division of the Turkish Health Ministry. He told reporters at the Cilvegozu crossing that one of the wounded had died in hospital while four people, including a child, were in serious condition.
The evacuation of the last opposition-held areas of Aleppo was suspended on Friday after pro-government militias demanded that wounded people should also be brought out of two Shi’ite Muslim villages being besieged by rebels.
Turkey says that close to 8,000 people – rebels and civilians – have been evacuated under a ceasefire deal it brokered with Russia.
Turkey is already sheltering around 2.7 million Syrian refugees. An aid official with Syrian NGO Shafak, working on the Aleppo evacuation, said he expected more people to head for the Turkish border as the villages west of Aleppo were now full.
Aleppo was divided between government and rebel areas of control for much of the nearly six-year-old civil war. But a lightning advance by the Syrian army and its allies that began in mid-November saw the insurgents lose most of their territory.
(Reporting by Orhan Coskun and Ercan Gurses in Ankara, Humeyra Pamuk in Istanbul; Editing by Daren Butler and Nick Tattersall/Mark Heinrich)