May 23, 2013 | 10:08 AM (BD Time)
23 May, 2013 Thursday
Thousands of refugees flee violence
. BBC Online
Thousands of Syrian refugees are pouring into neighbouring countries as fighting between government forces and rebels intensifies. The UN refugee agency says up to 30,000 people are reported to have fled across the border into Lebanon over the past 48 hours.
More refugees are said to be crossing into Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. Meanwhile, clashes have continued in Damascus, with the military repelling a rebel assault in the Midan area.
State media announced on Friday that Midan had been "cleaned" of "terrorists". Rebels said they had withdrawn from Midan after coming under bombardment.
Journalists were allowed into Midan on Friday, and pictures showed dust-covered corpses lying in the streets, with tanks and burnt-out cars littering the area. Activists said fierce fighting was also taking place in Syria's second city, Aleppo.
Syria's national security chief Hisham Ikhtiar has died from injuries received in Wednesday's attack on the national security bureau, state TV announced, the fourth high-ranking fatality.
The UN Security Council is holding emergency talks
after Russia and China vetoed a resolution over the mandate of a UN observer force in Syria. Russia has agreed to delay a shipment of attack helicopters to Syria, the Interfax news agency reported.
Russia's envoy to France has sparked a row by saying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was ready to step down. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Friday that between 8,500 and 30,000 Syrian refugees had crossed into Lebanon in the previous 48 hours.
Many are believed to be fleeing the recent eruption of violence in the capital, Damascus.
The UNHCR says there are already 26,900 registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon, although activists say the real figure is much higher.
Widespread damage was visible after rebels withdrew from the Midan area of Damascus A UNHCR spokesman told AFP news agency that about 2,500 people had arrived in Jordan over the past four days, adding to the 35,000 registered Syrian refugees already there. A spokesman described it as "a steady flow".
About 140,000 Syrians are believed to have fled to Jordan since the uprising against President Assad began in March last year. The Jordanian government is building several refugee camps for them.
Reports also suggested that more than 3,000 Syrians had crossed into Iraq in the past 24 hours.
Some Iraqis, who were returning from Syria, have told the BBC they had been forced to flee their homes near Damascus because of sectarian violence and intimidation. They said they had been targeted by the rebel Free Syrian Army.
BBC Caucasus correspondent Damien McGuinness says that Armenia is seeing an influx of ethnic Armenians who have lived in Syria for generations, but the government is accused of not doing enough to help them.
Refugees have been staging protests outside the Armenian parliament, saying they have received no help with housing or jobs, he adds.
Reports say thousands of refugees are also continuing to cross Syria's northern border with Turkey where more than 40,000 are already registered with aid agencies.
As the fighting continued, rebels managed to seize control of several border posts late on Thursday. The rebels attacked crossings both on the southern frontier with Iraq and the northern border with Turkey. Government forces have been trying to retake some of the areas since, and it is unclear who is in control of the borders.
Russia's envoy to France, Alexander Orlov, sparked a row by saying that Assad had, in effect, agreed to step down last month at a conference in Geneva which had planned for a democratic transition.
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