Number displaced by fighting in southern Syria triples to 160,000, says UN
search

Number displaced by fighting in southern Syria triples to 160,000, says UN

Announcement adds to concerns of a developing humanitarian crisis on Syria’s borders with Israel and Jordan

Syrian refugee children play at an informal refugee camp, which is seen set between the houses and buildings in Arsal, near the border with Syria, east Lebanon, Wednesday, June 13, 2018 (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
Syrian refugee children play at an informal refugee camp, which is seen set between the houses and buildings in Arsal, near the border with Syria, east Lebanon, Wednesday, June 13, 2018 (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

The number of people displaced by the intense fighting in Syria has tripled in recent days, the spokesman for the UN refugee agency said on Friday.

According to the UNHCR, 160,000 people have now left their homes; on Monday, the UN said the number of displaced was 45,000, the Reuters news agency reported.

The announcement adds to concerns of a developing humanitarian crisis on Syria’s borders with Israel and Jordan.

Jordanian officials said earlier this week that the kingdom wouldn’t take in Syrians fleeing the Syrian government’s latest offensive in the south of the country, near Jordan’s border.

Syrian refugees register their names at an employment office, February 18, 2018, at the Azraq Refugee Camp, 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of Amman, Jordan. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh)

In an overnight operation Thursday, Israel transferred several dozen tons of humanitarian aid to refugee encampments in southwestern Syria.

The operation lasted “several hours,” the army said, and delivered some 300 tents, 13 tons of food, 15 tons of baby food, three pallets of medical supplies and 30 tons of clothes and shoes to the refugees.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said following the aid operation that Israel was “prepared to provide any humanitarian assistance to civilians, women and children,” but stressed that “we will not accept any Syrian refugees into our territory.”

One possible development feared by Israel was masses of refugees banding together to try and break through the border fence, Hadashot news reported Thursday. Security officials feared that in such a scenario, terrorists could also try to sneak among them into the country.

In recent years, Israel has given extensive humanitarian support to civilians on the Syrian side of the border, who mostly side with the rebels in the Syrian civil war. Israel has provided food and medicine, and thousands of wounded Syrians have entered Israel for life-saving medical treatment.

IDF officers on the Golan Heights managing an operation on June 28, 2018 to provide humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees in tent encampments in southwestern Syria. (IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)

Since June 2016 the IDF has quietly been working on Operation Good Neighbor, a massive multi-faceted humanitarian relief operation to keep thousands of Syrians who live along the border from starving or falling ill due to the lack of food and basic medical care.

On Sunday, the security cabinet will hold a discussion on home front preparedness for the possibility of escalation on the northern front, Channel 10 said. It added that Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman wants his ministry to receive an additional several billion shekels to prepare the home front for war.

Israel is reportedly concerned that as the fighting gets closer to the border, there could be more mortar shells and other errant fire spilling over into the country.

The Channel 10 report added that the potential flareup in the north was one of the many reasons Israel was particularly anxious to avoid an escalation of tensions in the Gaza Strip at this time.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a new call Friday for “an immediate cessation” to military operations in southwest Syria, where government forces are attacking rebel-held areas.

Guterres is “deeply alarmed by the military offensive in southwestern Syria and its devastating toll on civilians,” according to a statement from spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Syrian government forces soldiers hold their weapons at the back of a pick-up truck during a government guided tour in the village of al-Sourah, province of Daraa, on June 29, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Youssef KARWASHAN)

“The secretary-general recalls that the southwest area of Syria is part of a de-escalation agreement agreed between Jordan, Russia and the United States,” the statement said.

Guterres “calls on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law, protect civilians and facilitate safe, unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access.”

The UN chief had made a similar call earlier this month, after Russian-backed government forces began attacking opposition-held parts of Daraa province on June 19.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says that nearly 100 civilians have been killed since the start of the offensive.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

read more:
less
comments
more