The fathers and brothers carry babies that have become too heavy for their exhausted mothers to manage. The mothers, bearing backpacks, shoulder bags and sometimes even shopping bags stuffed with a few final items, grasp the hands of their slightly older daughters.
Sons who are old enough to walk in stoic pride beside their mothers, wearing sweat suits and colorful sport shoes, carry bags of food for the way – for it may be long, unimaginably long.
Looking at the endless chain of humanity stretching back as these “migrants” walk towards the border with Greece in a photo snapped on Sunday by the peerless Getty Images, one need only close one’s eyes to see the image of another people less than a century earlier, also heading with limited hope toward Europe: “Anatevka, Anatevka” that mythical tiny Jewish shtetl bashed and battered by vicious pogroms until it finally was no more, and its Jews had little choice but to flee.
“What do we leave? Nothing much. Only Anatevka.” So, too these Syrian families, most of them anyway.
What are they fleeing towards? None of them really know. But what they’re leaving isn’t better, and the mass exodus has been sparked by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who announced that he “opened the gates” to the borders of Europe for migrants a few days ago.
The decision to allow Syrian refugees to leave Turkey and flood into Europe – against an agreement with the European Union to block them from doing so – appears to be an attempt to pressure Europe into providing more support to Turkey in dealing with the constant violence from the Syrian war to its south. Erdogan is now calling on Europe to “share the burden” of caring for the refugees; Turkey has hosted some 3.6 million Syrian refugees since 2011 – most in abysmal conditions, but still they are alive, fed and healthy.
Now as they’re desperately making that break for survival, Turkish forces are attacking warplanes sent by the Syrian regime that was the cause of this entire nightmare starting more than 11 years ago.
The official state Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) confirmed on Sunday that two of the regime’s SU-24 warplanes were shot down by Turkish forces over Idlib province. The four pilots ejected with parachutes and landed safely according to the report.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry also said its forces destroyed at least six Syrian aerial defense systems after one of its drones was shot down.
Syrian media said the regime was closing its airspace for all flights or drones across the northwestern region, and that any aircraft penetrating Syrian airspace would be treated as hostile and shot down.
The announcement followed two days of Turkish drone attacks in the skies of Idlib that left a high number of casualties among Syrian government forces, in an operation dubbed, “Spring Shield,” the fourth since 2016.
Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar told reporters his forces had “neutralized” more than 2,200 Syrian troops, 103 tanks and eight helicopters within the past several days – specifically, in the days after Syrian forces had killed 33 Turkish soldiers in air strikes on February 27.