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MENAFN - Jordan Times - 12/08/2012

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(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Hundreds of Syrians continue to flee to Jordan daily, according to the UN, in spite of a new Syrian military campaign that activists claim aims to "cut off" all land routes between the two countries.

Intensified fighting in major urban areas such as Aleppo and Damascus has led to the influx of some 2,000 Syrians into Jordan each day, according to the UN, pushing the total number of registered refugees to 45,600.

In a weekly report released on Friday, the UN Refugee Agency revealed that the conflict has led to the exodus of some 150,000 registered refugees across the region.

UN officials admit that the total number of registrations is unrepresentative of the actual number of vulnerable Syrians in Jordan, which various estimates place at some 70,000.

The Syrian military campaign in the border region is intended to dismantle the vast network of smuggling routes that have paved the way for the entry of some 150,000 Syrians into Jordan, activists say.

According to the so-called Local Coordination Committees, a network of Syrian opposition activists, Damascus has imposed a new security crackdown in the wake of former Prime Minister Riyad Hijab's defection to Jordan last week, dismantling suspected rebel safe houses and doubling patrols along traditional smuggling routes.

Activists say the campaign has been centred around the Syrian border cities of Daraa and Nasib, both of which served briefly as safe havens for Hijab before his crossing into Jordan on Wednesday.

"Regime forces are demolishing homes, destroying villages; there is no safe place in southern Syria," said Abu Mohammed, a member of the Local Coordination Committees currently residing in Jordan.

"This isn't a security operation, this is revenge."

Activists say the four-day military campaign has pushed the refugee flow hundreds of kilometres eastward into the Jordanian-Syrian desert, posing new obstacles for would-be regime defectors and civilians fleeing violence in their homeland.

Abu Mohammed, a 40-year-old Syrian who crossed into the Kingdom early Saturday, said the new campaign had extended refugees' journey into Jordan "by days".

"We were told that we could easily cross from Daraa or Nasib under the protection of the Free Syrian Army," Abu Mohammed told The Jordan Time over the phone.

After three days of being shuttled back and forth from rebel safe houses, Abu Mohammed and his family were told that the routes which had facilitated the nightly crossing of over 2,000 Syrians had been effectively closed.

"With the new increase in forces in the border area, the old routes are now paths to suicide."

Instead, Abu Mohammed and hundreds of would-be refugees have been redirected along new routes in the eastern desert, a physically demanding journey activists claim can be "fatal" to those suffering from serious injuries or health conditions.

Syrian activists have repeatedly called on the international community to establish a "no fly zone" along Syria's borders to ensure the safe passage of refugees into neighbouring countries.

A dramatic spike in new arrivals forced the authorities to open the country's first Syrian refugee camp last month, a collection of some 2,000 tents in the desert outskirts of Mafraq.

In a decision last month, the government gave the UN the green light to establish up to 22 camps in the border region to house up to one million Syrians should the conflict continue.


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