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Jordan: Syria refugee influx surges nearly tenfold

Rebels say there are nearly 40,000 Syrians waiting to cross into the kingdom should the US launch a strike

A Syrian boy carries a water jug to his family's tent at the Zaatari Refugee Camp, in Mafraq, Jordan (photo credit: AP/Mohammad Hannon/File)
A Syrian boy carries a water jug to his family's tent at the Zaatari Refugee Camp, in Mafraq, Jordan (photo credit: AP/Mohammad Hannon/File)

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — The number of Syrian refugees crossing into Jordan jumped nearly tenfold last week to an average 900 people per day, its highest level in months, officials from the kingdom said Monday.

At the same time, the number of Syrians returning home has also surged, climbing to 600 per day, said Col. Zaher Abu-Shehab, who oversees refugee camps for the Jordanian government.

Syrian families often move back and forth across the border multiple times as fighting ebbs and flows. Many find conditions in desert refugee camps in Jordan to be only marginally better than their battle-scarred homes.

Refugee arrivals were high early this year but dwindled to an average of 100 per day in May and thereafter, Abu-Shehab told The Associated Press.

He said up to date, there are 127,604 Syrian refugees living in Jordanian refugee camps, while hundreds of thousands more live in local communities.

An aerial view of the Zaatari refugee camp, July 18, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Mandel Ngan/File)
An aerial view of the Zaatari refugee camp, July 18, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Mandel Ngan/File)

Ali Bibi, a liaison officer with the UN refugee agency, said the increased number of Syrian refugee arrival was due to the “security situation in southern areas bordering Jordan.”

Two officers with the rebel Free Syrian Army coordinating the movement of refugees between Syria and Jordan said there were additionally thousands of refugees waiting to cross into Jordan.

They said the refugees moved recently from areas in the suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus into two villages in Syria’s south, namely Tal Shahab and Zeizoon, near the Jordanian frontier.

“They are anxious about a potential US strike on Syria and are now just across the border waiting to see how things will develop,” said one of the officers, estimating their number at nearly 40,000.

“They were given shelter, but they don’t have enough food and water,” he said.

Both officers spoke by telephone from Syria’s southern region. They insisted on anonymity and declined to have their location identified for fear of reprisal by the Damascus government.

Jordan is the second largest host of Syrian refugees after Turkey, sheltering more than 560,000.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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