***Update at 2:10 PM PST, 20 Sept. 2014 - Turkey now says that the number of refugees flooding across their Syrian border is more than 66,000 in the past 24 hours. Good grief!***
Turkey opened its border on Friday to Syrians who had fled the Kurdish town of Kobane in fear of an IS attack. As reported 2 days ago, Turkey initially kept its borders closed to the refugees which, if it had continued, would have lead to an even worse humanitarian crisis than the one that exists.
Activists say some 300 Kurdish fighters have crossed into Syria from Turkey to help defend the strategic town.
IS controls large areas of Syria and Iraq and has seized dozens of villages around Kobane, also called Ayn al-Arab.
|Mass exodus from Kobane, Syria to Turkey|
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus confirmed on Saturday that 45,000 refugees had crossed the border within a 24-hour period.
"No country in the world can take in 45,000 refugees in one night, bring them here unharmed and find them a shelter without a problem," he said.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 300 Kurdish fighters had joined Syrian Kurdish ranks in the Kobane area to fend off the IS advance. The activist group did not specify which Kurdish group the fighters belonged to.
"Islamic State sees Kobane like a lump in the body: they think it is in their way," the observatory's Rami Abdulrahman said.
Syrian activists say IS has seized as many as 60 villages surrounding Kobane since fighting began earlier this week.
The observatory said on Saturday that at least 11 Kurds had been executed by IS, with the fate of some 800 residents who fled the villages "unknown".
The head of Syria's Kurdish Democratic Union, Mohammed Saleh Muslim, has appealed for international assistance in the battle against the jihadists.
Turkey has taken in more than 800,000 Syrian refugees since the conflict began in 2011
"Kobane is facing the fiercest and most barbaric attack in its history," Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.
"Kobane calls on all those who defend humane and democratic values... to stand by Kobane and support it immediately. The coming hours are decisive," he added.
BBC correspondents say the capture of the town would give IS control of a large strip of Syria's northern border with Turkey.
Map of IS areas of control
Who are Islamic State (IS)?
Formed out of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) in 2013, IS first captured Raqqa in eastern Syria
It captured broad swathes of Iraq in June, including Mosul, and declared a "caliphate" in areas it controls in Syria and Iraq
Pursuing an extreme form of Sunni Islam, IS has persecuted non-Muslims such as Yazidis and Christians, as well as Shia Muslims, whom it regards as heretics
Known for its brutal tactics, including beheadings of soldiers, Western journalists and aid workers
The CIA says the group could have as many as 31,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria
The US has been launching air strikes on IS targets in north-eastern Iraq since mid-August
In a separate development, 46 Turkish and three Iraqi hostages seized by IS have been freed and taken to Turkey after a covert operation led by Turkey's intelligence agency.
The hostages were seized from the Turkish consulate after IS militants overran Mosul in a rapid advance in June.
Few details about the operation have been released, but Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey's "own methods" brought the group home. Does that mean that a lot of money changed hands?
***Update #2, at 2:10 PM PST, 20 Sept. 2014 - NTV reports that Turkey paid no ransom, engaged in no clashes with IS & didn't use any intel from other countries to rescue 49 hostages held. Begs the question, what kind of relationship do they have with IS? What have they given or promised them?***
"After intense efforts that lasted days and weeks, in the early hours, our citizens were handed over to us and we brought them back to our country,' Mr Davutoglu said. The BBC's Mark Lowen says there is "huge relief" in Turkey.
The group was greeted by flag-waving crowds in Ankara, after arriving there early on Saturday.
"I can't describe the days we've lived through. I can't describe what we felt, me and my relatives," one of the hostages was quoted as saying after arriving in southern Turkey.
As well as consular employees, children and special forces police were among the hostages.
Thirty countries have pledged to join a US-led coalition against the militants but Turkey has said it will only allow humanitarian and logistical operations from a Nato air base on its soil.
Turkey has come under pressure from Western countries to stem the flow of foreign fighters joining IS.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey is developing plans for a buffer zone on its border with Iraq and Syria.