AMMAN — A record number of Syrians fled to Jordan on Saturday, officials said, amid reported gains by rebel forces along the border.
Some 3,200 Syrians crossed into Jordan early Saturday, one of the largest number of new arrivals recorded in a single day since the onset of the conflict, UN relief officials said.
Saturday’s influx came amid reports of rebel forces’ capture of a strategic border outpost as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) renewed its offensive to seize control of the Jordanian-Syrian border.
According to rebel sources, on Saturday afternoon the FSA captured the Hijarneh border outpost, a military barracks near Daraa that lies some two kilometres from the Jordanian-Syrian border and 25 kilometres west of the Ramtha crossing point.
The capture marks a strategic victory for rebel forces, who have so far failed to take over major crossing points along the 370-kilometre long border between the two countries.
“Saturday’s capture is our first step towards liberating the southern border,” said Abu Hani Al Darawi, an FSA coordinator who claimed to have fought in the battle.
“By the end of this week all crossing points into Jordan will be in the hands of free Syrians.”
Despite allegedly controlling up to 80 per cent of the Jordanian-Syrian border, rebel forces have been repeatedly prevented by regime forces from capturing the Ramtha and Nasib/Jaber crossing points — Syria’s main conduits into Jordan.
Rebel forces suspended a similar offensive earlier this month after Damascus deployed an aerial assault and tank brigades to turn back their advances.
Should they succeed in capturing the strategic crossing points, rebel forces say they plan to facilitate the mass crossings of an estimated 10,000 displaced Syrians amassed along the Jordanian-Syrian border.
Activists claim that Damascus’ ongoing aerial assault of residential centres and deteriorating humanitarian conditions triggered a “mass migration” towards Jordan, with the reported arrival of some 1,000 civilians to the border region each day.
The Kingdom has opened its borders to over 350,000 Syrians since the onset of the conflict in March 2011.
UN officials expect ongoing violence to drive an additional 300,000 Syrians into Jordan before the end of June.