Jordan Says Won't Take Syrian Refugees Displaced by Latest Offensive

More than 17,000 people have reportedly fled their homes following a regime attack on southern Syria

A woman carries her child near the Azraq refugee camp, Jordan, 2014.
\ REUTERS

Jordan will not take in Syrians fleeing their government's latest offensive in the country's south, officials said Monday as violence in the Syrian province of Daraa claimed more lives and displaced thousands.

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad have been advancing deeper into Daraa, under the cover of Russian airstrikes.

Meanwhile, the United States reportedly told rebels not to expect an American intervention to defend them from the army's offensive.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Syrian insurgents have attacked 12 areas where rebels shifted alliances and sided with the government. The ministry blamed the attack on al-Qaida-linked fighters, saying it was repelled and that 70 gunmen were killed. It said there were no human losses on the government side.

The statement added that Russian military will ensure security for three UN humanitarian convoys entering the area on Monday.

A war-monitoring group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reported 34 airstrikes in Daraa after midnight Sunday, adding that the shelling reached the contested provincial capital, also called Daraa.

The city of Daraa is where anti-government protests began in March 2011 as part of the Arab Spring in Syria and later escalated into a civil war that has so far killed 400,000 and displaced half the country's population.

The Observatory said 26 civilians have been killed since the government offensive on Daraa began last Tuesday, and more than 17,000 people fled their homes, moving closer to the Jordanian border.

Jordanian government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat said the kingdom is working with the U.S. and Russia to protect its national interests. The Jordan Times quoted her as saying that Jordan has already absorbed large numbers of Syrian refugees and that "we simply cannot receive more."

Jordan hosts about 660,000 registered refugees, but says the actual number of displaced Syrians in the kingdom is twice as high.