50,000 Syrians Flee Assad Bombs to Jordan Border; IDF Chief in U.S. for Urgent Talks

Jordan to block massive wave of Syrian refugees from Daraa, raising fears they will head towards Israel

A man carries a child in the rebel-held town of Nawa, southern Syria on June 26, 2018
AHMAD AL-MSALAM/AFP

As the Syrian regime makes headway in its attempt to recapture the southwest part of the country, Israel's defense establishment is increasingly preparing for the possibility of fighting spilling onto the border region on the Golan Heights. Israel has clarified to all the parties involved that it would not accept violations of its sovereignty or spillage into Israel.

On Thursday evening, Israel's army chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot landed in the U.S. for an urgent visit due to recent developments. On Sunday, Israel's security cabinet will discuss the events in Syria.

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Thousands of Syrian refugees fleeing bombardments by the Bashar Assad regime in southern Syria are heading in the direction of the Jordanian border and Israeli borders. A United Nations report put the number of those heading towards Jordan at 50,000.

The Jordanian government issued a statement it would block entry to all Syrian refugees coming from Daraa to the Syria-Jordan border.

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The Israeli army is preparing for Syrians refugees to approach the Israeli border, assuming their numbers will grow as the fighting in the region intensifies. Israel does not intend to take in Syrian refugees, but to give humanitarian aid as much as possible.

>> Assad Preparing to Retake Southwest Syria and Israel Will Have to Decide Whether to Intervene | Analysis

After having scored numerous military successes over the last two years, the Assad regime, with Russian air support, is preparing to retake the country’s southwest. The area has both symbolic and strategic importance, as the uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad began in Daraa in 2011), but also practical importance, since it abuts both Jordan and Israel.

Assessments predict numbers will rise in the coming weeks, as clashes between regime forces and Syrian rebels aggravate around the rebel-held city of Daraa.

This follows the kingdom's announcement Monday that it is incapable of taking in any more refugees, urging the international community to intervene and supply aid to displaced Syrians.

Last week regime helicopters reportedly attacked agricultural areas northeast of Daraa and rained barrel bombs on the rebels. There have also been ground battles, as the regime is trying to drive a wedge between two areas under rebel control.

On Monday, the second air strike of the week ascribed to Israel took place, this time near the Damascus airport. An opposition group said it targeted arms being unloaded from an Iranian plane that had landed shortly before.

Fight for Daraa

The international community has not fulfilled its obligation to Jordan, said the government, with only 20 percent of the promised aid being delivered. It also stressed it is incapable of tending to the refugees it has taken in since the start of the war in 2011.

Earlier Thursday, Syrian activists say at least 17 civilians, including children, have been killed in an airstrike on an underground shelter in a rebel-held area in the country’s southwest.

The Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights described Thursday’s airstrike in al-Musayfrah in eastern Daraa as the worst since Assad's government offensive there began on June 19.

The Observatory says the airstrike was part of a barrage of missiles that hit the area as government troops make a push to gain territory and head toward southern Daraa and a strategic border crossing with Jordan.

Activist with the opposition-operated Horan Free Media who goes by the name Abu Mahmoud Hournai said the rescuers are still pulling bodies from the underground shelter. He put the death toll at 20, saying they included women and children.