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Hundreds of Syrians flee to Jordan as border battle wages

By Taylor Luck - Feb 03,2013 - Last updated at Feb 03,2013

AMMAN — Hundreds of Syrians fled to Jordan on Sunday as regime and rebel forces battled for control of the main Jordanian-Syrian border crossing point.

According to Jordanian security sources, heavy shelling and mortar rocket fire erupted along the Jordanian-Syrian border Sunday after rebel forces attempted to storm the Nasib/Jaber crossing point in Mafraq, around 80 kilometres northeast of Amman.

Security sources say Damascus deployed warplanes and tanks to repel the assault, which officials are calling the largest battle to have broken out along the border since the onset of the 23-month-old conflict. 

Rebel forces are billing the daring operation as a “decisive battle” for the Nasib crossing, which lies some 10 kilometres west of Daraa and serves as Syria’s main conduit to Jordan.

Despite reportedly controlling up to 70 per cent of the 370-kilometre-long border, rebel forces have repeatedly failed to capture the heavily fortified border crossing. 

“We will not back down until we have liberated the southern border once and for all,” said Abu Hani Al Darawi, a Free Syrian Army coordinator located in the border region.

Should they succeed in capturing the Nasib crossing, the Free Syrian Army says they aim to facilitate “mass crossings” into Jordan of the some 14,000 internally displaced persons reportedly amassed along the border currently. 

Meanwhile, residents of the Jordanian border village of Jaber and the northern city of Mafraq reported sounds of loud explosions and heavy gunfire Sunday evening which security forces attributed to the ongoing clashes.

As of late Sunday, Syrian government forces remained in control of the Nasib crossing.

Sunday’s clashes came as Syrians continued to flee to Jordan in record numbers, with relief officials reporting the entry of some 1,200 refugees.

According to the UN, the bulk of Sunday’s arrivals originated from the village of Sheikh Miskeen, outside Daraa, which has been subject to heavy shelling and intense clashes between regime and rebel forces over the past two weeks. 

Concurrently, violence continued to intensify across Syria on Sunday, with the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reporting over 80 casualties as regime and rebel forces clashed in Daraa, Hama, Idlib, Homs and the Damascene countryside.

Activists told The Jordan Times over the phone that Damascus’ reportedly “indiscriminate” shelling of residential centres and the rise in reported massacres has triggered a “mass migration” of displaced persons to southern Syria in hopes of crossing into Jordan.

Intensified violence since the beginning of the year has sparked an exodus of Syrians into Jordan — with officials reporting a record influx of 60,000 refugees in January alone. 

Jordan has opened its borders to over 340,000 Syrians since the onset of the conflict in March 2011.

Officials say hosting the growing refugee population is expected to cost Amman up to $800 million in 2013. 

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