The United Nations refugee agency implored Jordan on Thursday to open its borders and give temporary shelter to tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing airstrikes in southwestern Syria
“I am gravely concerned for the civilian population caught in the crossfire in southwest Syria, including airstrikes and heavy shelling. An estimated 750,000 lives are in danger,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a Thursday statement.
More than 320,000 civilians are now displaced in southwest Syria, living in dire and insecure conditions, including 60,000 at the border crossing with Jordan, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.
Noting that fighting in the border area was life-threatening and that Syrian civilians were seeking safety in neighboring Jordan, Grandi said: “Given the immediate dangers, I am advocating for granting temporary refuge in Jordan to those in need of safety and for the international community to provide immediate and substantive support to Jordan.”
Jordan, however, has staunchly refused to open its border to displaced Syrians.
“Jordan has taken the decision to close its border to protect its security and avoid any risks that may threaten its security,” Jordanian government spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat told Anadolu Agency.
“The international community and the United Nations are called upon to play their part in helping refugees and applying pressure for a political solution to end the crisis,” Ghunaimat said.
She added: “The solution is not to open the border but to reach a political solution that would end the root cause of the problem.”
In the meantime, the spokeswoman went on, Jordan would “continue its humanitarian duty to deliver relief aid to displaced Syrians inside Syria”.
On Tuesday, Liz Throssell, a spokeswoman for the UN’s human rights office, said: “The situation in Daraa appears to be worsening, with escalating attacks that are heavily impacting civilians. We urge all parties to the conflict to protect civilians in southwestern Syria, and to protect those attempting to flee.”
According to UN officials, southern Syria is now witnessing its largest population displacement since the conflict began in 2011.
For the last two weeks, Daraa has been the target of intense air and ground attacks by the Assad regime and its allies, who have advanced deep into Daraa’s eastern countryside.
Over 100 civilians have been killed — and thousands more displaced — since the regime offensive began last month.
Following peace talks held last year in Kazakh capital Astana, Daraa was designated a “de-escalation zone” in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited.