Syrian troops set up roadblocks on Sunday near the country's northern border with Turkey to impede people fleeing the government's deadly, months-long crackdown on opposition protests.
Soldiers also made mass arrests and set fire to buildings, including a bakery, in an apparent attempt to cut off food supplies from thousands of refugees living in camps along the border.
About 10,000 Syrians have already fled to five refugee camps on the Turkish side.
An estimated 5,000 others are camped out on the Syrian side of the border, with dwindling resources, trying to remain close to their homes and relatives and avoiding official refugee status that might delay their return.
'They're so afraid they're actually right next to the border gate' —Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch
The Turkish Red Crescent said Sunday that it has begun handing out food across the frontier to those internally displaced Syrians.
The crisis is forcing some Syrians to take big risks to save their families.
A man who would give his name as only Bassam told CBC News he sneaks across the border into the Turkish town of Guvecci every day to get food for his wife and child.
"There's no food on the border. We come every day to get it," he said.
The family lives with thousands of others in tents built of plastic and branches. Bassam said they fled their home because they saw what has happened to others who took part in anti-government protests like he did.
"We were in danger. The police arrest people and then those people just disappear."
Aid workers move clandestinely
Human-rights workers have also been slipping across the border, in their case into Syria to document stories of atrocities committed by government troops.
One of them, Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch, said the people in makeshift camps on the Syrian side of the border still live in terror.
"They're so afraid they're actually right next to the border gate," he said. "The Syrian army is just a few kilometres away and it still approaching closer and closer as we speak."
Bassam said he will smuggle his family into Turkey if things don't improve soon, though the prospect appears dim. In raids Sunday on the northern town of Bdama, Syrian troops burned homes and, according to a witness who spoke to the Agence France-Presse news agency, shot the owner of a bakery that they set on fire.
The bakery was the sole source of bread for nearly 2,000 displaced people crowded into the camps near the border. The town was also supplying medicine and other foodstuffs to them.
Meanwhile, opposition activists announced the creation of a national council on Sunday, hoping it will help consolidate their uprising. The National Transitional Council in Libya, which spearheads the rebellion there, has been recognized as that country's legitimate government by a handful of countries, including France, Italy and Spain.
The three-month-old Syrian uprising aims to dislodge the 40-year autocratic rule of President Bashar Assad's family.