Syria Roadside Bomb Hits Jordanian Writers' Bus, at Least Two Wounded

Jordanian delegation claims five of its members hurt; 500 families of Syrian refugees cross border into Lebanon.

A bomb exploded Thursday near a bus carrying a group of Jordanian writers who met with senior Syrian government leaders on an official visit, wounding two of them, according to the Syrian state news agency SANA. However, one of the delegates claimed five were injured.

"As soon as we chanted, 'Long live President Bashar,' there was a boom," said Hussein Mutawee, one of the wounded writers, who accused the Syrian rebels for targeting his group due to their support of the regime.

Some Jordanian unionists, especially those with pan-Arab nationalist sentiments, support Assad because they believe that the civil war is a conspiracy hatched by the United States and Israel to weaken Arabs.

Mutawee said the 20-member delegation from the Jordanian Writers Syndicate was in Syria for four days, meeting with top officials. They had plans to meet President Bashar Assad, but the government "told us the president was busy," Mutawee said.

Roadside bomb attacks are common in Syria's nearly three-year conflict that activists say has killed more than 120,000 people.

Refugee flood

Also Thursday, a UN official said around 500 Syrian families crossed the border into Lebanon overnight, joining the flood of people trying to escape an offensive by Assad's forces in a mountainous region along the frontier.

The new arrivals add to the more than 13,000 people that the United Nations says have found shelter in Lebanon since the Syrian government offensive in the rugged Qalamoun region north of Damascus began last Friday. The influx has left aid agencies scrambling to provide enough shelter for the refugees.

Lebanese authorities have granted aid groups permission to build a temporary transit camp for Syrians for the first time since the uprising began three years ago, said Lisa Abou Khaled, an official with the UN refugee agency. She said the UN agency put up 21 tents overnight, and will set up an additional 29 by the end of Thursday.

"We're just doing it as an emergency response," she said. "We've always had a number of tents in stock."

Lebanon, which has taken in an estimated 1.4 million Syrian refugees, has been reluctant to build camps to house Syrians, fearing they will stay permanently.
Instead, local communities have taken in many refugees, while others have been left to fend for themselves.

Abou Khaled said that by Wednesday evening, the number of refugees who have arrived in the Lebanese border town of Arsal since last Friday stood at 13,000.
She said another 500 families, each on average numbering about six people, arrived overnight.