GENEVA/BEIRUT: More than 6,400 Syrian refugees have fled to Jordan's Za'atari camp in the past 24 hours, joining 30,000 others who have arrived since the start of the month, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Friday.
“Jordan has experienced a record number of refugees crossing,” the UN refugee agency’s spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told reporters in Geneva, noting that December's influx totalled 16,413. The new arrivals bring the total population of the sprawling camp to some 65,000.
Meanwhile, while people fleed across the border, Syria's air force launched new raids on rebel-held towns east of Damascus on Friday, after clashes raged on the edges of a Palestinian refugee camp in the capital, a watchdog said.
The army pounded opposition-held areas of battered Homs in central Syria, as it stepped up a campaign to reclaim areas of “the capital of the revolution,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Warplanes made several air strikes on towns and villages in the Eastern Ghouta region” near Damascus, said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers across Syria for its reporting.
Eastern Ghouta is home to some of the rebel Free Syrian Army's best organised and fiercest groups.
Clashes pitting rebels against troops raged overnight on the edges of the Yarmuk refugee camp, which has seen frequent violence in the past few weeks, especially since two air raids in mid-December.
Once home to some 150,000 Palestinians, Yarmuk now also acts as a makeshift refuge for hundreds of Syrians fleeing violence elsewhere in the country.
“But it is no longer a safe place. Thousands of people have left the camp, Palestinians and Syrians, in search of another refuge,” said Abu Omair, an activist from Damascus.
Friday's violence came a day after at least 98 people were killed across the country, among them 33 civilians, 26 soldiers and 39 rebel fighters, said the watchdog.
In Homs, the army shelled the Juret al Shiyah and Khaldiyeh neighbourhoods, which have been bombarded frequently since the outbreak of the anti-regime revolt in March 2011, said the Observatory.
Much of Juret al Shiyah, like many areas of Homs city, has been levelled, Homs residents say.
Fighting raged on the edges of the districts, as the army continued to push to reclaim insurgent-held areas in the strategic city, which lies on the route linking Damascus to the sea.
Meanwhile on late Thursday, a suicide attacker killed at least eight military intelligence troops, said the Observatory.
“At least eight military intelligence troops were killed in a suicide bomb attack by an AlNusra Front fighter in the town of Saasaa,” in Damascus province, it said.
Others were critically injured in the attack staged by an organisation listed by the United States as a “terrorist” group.
State news agency SANA confirmed the attack. It blamed “terrorists”, but did not elaborate on the number of casualties.
More than 60,000 people have been killed in violence across Syria since an anti-regime revolt morphed into an armed insurgency after the regime of President Bashar al Assad launched a brutal crackdown on dissent.