Exodus: Thousands of Syrian refugees escape into northern Iraq

Syrian refugees cross into Iraq at the Peshkhabour border point in Dahuk, 260 miles northwest of Baghdad, on Aug. 20, 2013. Hadi Mizban / AP

Mahmoud Qarou packed his bags on Sunday to join tens of thousands of Syrian refugees escaping into northern Iraq, convinced that the two-year conflict could only get worse.

About 35,000 Syrian refugees have poured into neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan over a new border crossing since Thursday, fleeing a surge in attacks by al Qaeda-linked Sunni Arab rebel group al-Nusra Front on Kurdish villages near the border.

Thousands of Syrians streaming across a bridge over the Tigris River, entering Iraq at a point where movement is normally tightly controlled by both countries, on Aug. 15. "There were lots of smiles as people arrived. Many had waited for days in temperatures reaching 40 degrees and so there was a sense of relief," said UNHCR photographer Galiya Gubaeva. Galiya Gubaeva / UNHCR via EPA
A Syrian refugee holds her son as she crosses into Iraq on Aug. 20. Hadi Mizban / AP
A view of the new refugee camp on the outskirts of the city of Arbil, in Iraq's Kurdistan region, on Aug. 20. The government of Iraqi Kurdistan has set an entry quota of 3,000 refugees a day to cope with an influx of Kurds fleeing the civil war in Syria, but there are signs many more are still coming in, aid agencies said on Tuesday. Thaier Al-Sudani / Reuters

"There is no peaceful solution in Syria. The regime is bombing us and al-Nusra Front members are blowing themselves up all over the place," Qarou said in front of rows of United Nations aid tents.

The sudden massive exodus has raised the prospect of Iraq being dragged deeper into Syria's war. The leader of Iraq's Kurdish region, with thousands of troops under arms, has pledged to protect his kinsmen in Syria from attacks by al Qaeda-linked fighters who hold territory on both sides of the frontier. Read the full story.


Syrian refugees cross into Iraq on Aug. 20, 2013. Around 4,000 made the trek across the frontier Tuesday, said Youssef Mahmoud, a spokesman for the UNHCR. Hadi Mizban / AP
Syrian refugees take a rest as they cross into Iraq on Aug. 20. Hadi Mizban / AP