At least 2,000 Syrian rebel fighters have re-entered the country from Turkey over the last week to reinforce insurgents fending off an assault by Syrian Kurdish militias, rebel sources said on Thursday.
The rebel fighters, with weapons and vehicles, have been covertly escorted across the border by Turkish forces over several nights before heading into the embattled rebel stronghold of Azaz, the sources said.
"We have been allowed to move everything from light weapons to heavy equipment mortars and missiles and our tanks," Abu Issa, a commander in the Levant Front, the rebel group that runs the border crossing of Bab al-Salam, told Reuters, giving his alias and talking on condition of anonymity.
"There is tight security on the four-hour drive from one border crossing to the other," he added, saying rebels being transported excluded the hardline Jabhat al-Nusra Front fighters and other jihadist groups.
A Turkish security source confirmed fighters had crossed the border but put the numbers at 400-500 and the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks violence across the war torn-country, also said hundreds had crossed.
On Sunday, the Syrian government had said Turkish forces were among 100 gunmen who had entered Syria accompanied by 12 pick-up trucks mounted with heavy machine guns in an ongoing supply operation to insurgents. The route across Turkey has become the only path for rebels to their north Aleppo enclave after recent Syrian army advances closed the main route into rebel territory. source