A regime offensive in southern Syria has forced more than 270,000 people from their homes, the United Nations said Monday.
“We were expecting the number of displaced in southern Syria to reach 200,000, but it has already exceeded 270,000 people in record time,” said Mohammad Hawari, the spokesman for UN refugee agency UNHCR in Amman, Jordan.
Nearly two weeks of ferocious airstrikes and barrel bombing have seen the Russian-backed regime forces retake swaths of rebel-held territory in the southern province of Daraa, prompting tens of thousands of Syrians to flee to the nearby borders with Jordan and Israel’s Golan, both of which remain closed.
Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said Monday that he would fly to Moscow on Tuesday to discuss the situation with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, and “take us more steps forward to contain this crisis and prevent more destruction.”
Safadi said Amman had open channels with Damascus and Moscow and that the talks would focus on reaching a ceasefire and halting the displacement.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported earlier on Monday that a string of rebel-held locations in southern Syria had passed into regime control under Russian-brokered deals and that President Bashar Assad now held some 60 percent of the province.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reasserted at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting that Israel would not take in refugees from Syria but would extend humanitarian aid.
“Regarding southern Syria, we will continue to defend our borders. We will extend humanitarian assistance to the extent of our abilities,” Netanyahu said . “We will not allow entry into our territory and we will demand that the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement with the Syrian army be strictly upheld.”
The Daraa region is considered to be the cradle of the uprising against President Bashar Assad seven years ago that sparked the civil war in which more than 350,000 people have been killed and millions have been displaced.