50,000 Syrians stranded on Jordanian border as fear of US strike sparks mass exodus
Jordan has seen the largest number of Syrian refugees entering its borders out of all Syria's neighbours since the conflict began in 2011. (AFP)
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Tens of thousands of Syrians remained stranded by violence along the Jordanian-Syrian border on Wednesday in what activists and officials are describing as a “humanitarian disaster”.
According to border region residents and Syrian activists, some 10,000 civilians were prevented from crossing into Jordan by heavy shelling on Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing to 50,000 the total number of refugees currently stranded as they seek entry to Jordan.
“With the US strikes coming, thousand of families are trying to flee to Jordan,” said Ahmad Al Saad, a Syrian activist with the Local Coordination Committees in the border town of Tal Shihab, which witnessed an influx of over 12,000 displaced people since alleged chemical weapon attacks by Damascus late last month.
“Most make it to southern Syria, but none can cross through,” Saad added.
Free Syrian Army (FSA) officials confirmed that heavy violence blocked off all access routes into Jordan on Wednesday, with heavy clashes and shelling in the border villages of Al Nawa, Sheikh Al Maskin, Al Taseel and the southern city of Daraa.
The ongoing influx of would-be-refugees, many of whom are survivors of the alleged chemical weapon attacks in central Damascus, has put an increased strain on border communities that have been reeling from a two-month siege by regime forces, leaving them without basic food supplies or electricity.
“As of today, we can no longer provide food or water to displaced families,” said Mohammad Hourani, a coordinator with the Syrian National Coalition for the Opposition based in the border town of Al Nasib, which is reportedly hosting over 10,000 displaced people.
“If the international community does not intervene now, hundreds and maybe thousands will die,” he warned.
“We are still receiving hundreds of women and children from Ghouta and Zamalka who are clearly suffering from poison gas inhalation,” Hourani claimed.
“The best we can do is provide them with blankets and water, and pray,” he added.
The border clampdown continued to reduce the refugee flow into Jordan to a steady trickle, with the Jordan Armed Forces reporting some 105 crossings via the eastern desert on Wednesday.
Jordan has opened its borders to over 586,000 Syrians since the onset of the conflict in March 2011.
By Taylor Luck