Refugee returns outpacing arrivals in Jordan's Zaatari camp
Rising violence continued to strand hundreds of refugees along the Jordanian-Syrian border, eyewitnesses said on Monday, as the number of Syrians returning to their war-torn homeland outpaced new arrivals.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), some 200 Syrians crossed into Jordan early Monday, continuing a week-long slowdown in new arrivals that has seen as few as one refugee enter the country within a 24-hour period.
The total number of new arrivals over the past nine days stands at 583 — nearly one-third of the 1,650 refugees who returned to Syria during the same period and well below the previous daily average inflow of 2,500 persons per day.
Relief officials attribute the drop to Damascus’ sweeping military offensive across southern Syria, which has cut off most access routes to Jordan.
Syrian regime forces continued their campaign on Monday, security sources and rebels said, reporting heavy clashes and shelling in the border villages of Bosra Al Sham, Sheikh Al Maskeen and the southern city of Daraa.
Rebel officials and local residents claim the bombings have cut off border towns and villages from the rest of Syria.
“Regime forces are trying to block all routes. At this moment, no one can go into Jordan or back to Damascus,” said Mohammad Al Damashqi, a Free Syrian Army battalion commander currently based outside Daraa.
The heavy fighting is part of a month-long military campaign that has seen Syrian regime forces capture several border towns and villages such as Tal Shihab and Khirbet Ghazaleh — key rebel strongholds and main transit points along smuggling routes into Jordan.
Jordan has opened its border to over 540,000 Syrians since the onset of the conflict, a number UN officials expect to surpass 1.2 million by the end of the year.
In light of the rising violence, the UN is set to appeal for billions of dollars in emergency aid next month to meet the needs of a Syrian refugee community that is expected to double from 1.5 million to 3 million by the end of 2013.