DAMASCUS, Syria, Nov. 9 (UPI) -- At least 9,000 Syrians crossed the border to Turkey in 24 hours and 2,000 more fled to Lebanon and Jordan, U.N. relief officials said Friday.
The new arrivals in Turkey included two Syrian Army generals, 11 colonels and 13 other military defectors, the Anatolian News Agency reported.
Officials with the U.N. refugee agency blamed escalating violence in Syria for the latest wave of refugees, The New York Times reported. More than 400,000 have registered with the relief agency since large-scale protests began in Syria last year, and officials say many more may have failed to register.
"There is more violence, more humanitarian suffering, more displacement and more losses," said Radhouane Nouicer, the agency's coordinator in Damascus.
Amer al-Hasakawi, a Free Syrian Army spokesman, told CNN there had been fierce fighting against government troops since Thursday morning. He said the rebels got control of a border crossing with Turkey and had seized border outposts.
President Bashar Assd, in an interview broadcast Friday, blamed western countries for the chaos in Syria. He said an invasion would lead to a spillover to other countries.
"The price of this invasion, if it happened, is going to be more than the whole world can afford," Assad told Russian channel Russia Today, "because if you have a problem in Syria, and we are the last stronghold of secularism and stability in the region ... it will have a domino effect that will affect the world, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and you know the implication on the rest of the world."
In excerpts of the Thursday interview in Damascus made public before the broadcast, Assad said he did not think Western leaders would decide to invade, "but if they do so, nobody can tell what is next."
Asked where he would go if he has to leave Syria, Assad answered: "To Syria. I would go from Syria to Syria. This is the only place where we can live.
"I am not a puppet," he added. "I was not made by the West to go to the West or to any other country. I am Syrian, I was made in Syria, I have to live in Syria and die in Syria."
British Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday Assad should be allowed safe passage out of the country in return for ending the bloodshed that has left nearly 40,000 dead and hundreds of thousands in refugee camps.