Jordan says it won’t take in Syrians fleeing new offensive
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Jordan says it won’t take in Syrians fleeing new offensive

Russia's defense ministry says 70 rebels killed as forces loyal to Assad launch assault to retake southern provinces

Illustrative: Syrian refugee children look from their tent during a visit by UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien to the Zaatari Refugee Camp, near Mafraq, Jordan, September 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)
Illustrative: Syrian refugee children look from their tent during a visit by UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien to the Zaatari Refugee Camp, near Mafraq, Jordan, September 19, 2015. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

Officials said Sunday that Jordan wouldn’t take in Syrians fleeing the Syrian government’s latest offensive in the south of the country, near Jordan’s border.

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have been advancing deeper into the southern Daraa province, under the cover of airstrikes.

On Monday, Russian news agencies, citing the defense ministry, claimed the Syrian army aided by Russian air support had repelled an attack in the “de-escalation zone” in the south of the country, killing around 70 rebels, according to the Reuters news agency.

Meanwhile, the United States reportedly told rebels not to expect an American intervention to defend them from the army’s offensive. The Russian-backed government forces are carrying out an offensive to retake Syria’s southern provinces of Daraa and Sweida, still mostly held by rebels who had been backed by the US for years.

Jordanian government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat said Monday the kingdom is working with the US and Russia to protect its national interests. The Jordan Times on Monday quoted her as saying that Jordan has already absorbed large numbers of Syrian refugees and that “we simply cannot receive more.”

Jordan hosts about 660,000 registered refugees, but says the actual number of displaced Syrians in the kingdom is twice as high.

Recent protests which led to the toppling of the Jordanian prime minister in June partially blamed the kingdom’s economic woes on the influx of hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who burdened water- and energy-poor Jordan and its weak infrastructure.

Syrian refugees gather outside their embassy waiting to apply for passports or to renew their old ones in Amman, Jordan, on September 15, 2015. (AP/Raad Adayleh)

Human Rights Watch in October accused Jordan of “summarily deporting” Syrian refugees.

During the first five months of 2017, Jordanian authorities deported about 400 registered Syrian refugees each month, HRW said.

Some 300 registered refugees appeared to return voluntarily each month, and another 500 returned “under circumstances that are unclear.”

The rights group called on other countries to support Jordan “to enable it to provide safe and decent asylum space for Syrian refugees and asylum seekers.”

The Jordanian government denied the report’s findings.

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