Government offensive in south Syria displaces 270,000, says UN

Jordan’s foreign minister to hold talks with Lavrov as thousands driven towards border

Displaced Syrians from the Daraa province fleeing shelling by pro-government forces wait in a makeshift camp to cross the Jordanian border, near the town of Nasib, southern Syria. Photograph: Mohamad Abazeed/AFP/Getty Images

Displaced Syrians from the Daraa province fleeing shelling by pro-government forces wait in a makeshift camp to cross the Jordanian border, near the town of Nasib, southern Syria. Photograph: Mohamad Abazeed/AFP/Getty Images

 

Jordan’s foreign minister said he would hold talks with his Russian counterpart over the conflict in Syria, where the latest government offensive in the south has displaced 270,000 people, according to the UN.

Ayman Safadi said he would head to Moscow on Tuesday and was confident his meeting with Sergei Lavrov would produce more understandings and lead to “more steps forward to contain this crisis and prevent more destruction”.

Russia backs a Syrian government offensive in the southern province of Daraa, which has displaced tens of thousands of Syrians, sending most of them towards the closed Jordanian border or the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Khetam Malkawi, a spokeswoman for the UN agencies in the Jordanian capital of Amman, said the fighting in Daraa had displaced 270,000 people – a sharp rise since the offensive began on June 19th.

UN organisations have sent a convoy of food and medical supplies across the border from Jordan, she said.

Jordan has maintained the closure of its border, insisting it can no longer endure the influx of refugees. Instead, Mr Safadi said Jordan was delivering aid to the displaced and had deployed field hospitals near the border.

He said Amman kept channels with Damascus and Moscow open and his talks with Mr Lavrov would focus on reaching a ceasefire and halting the displacement.

“Our goal is to work on three specific targets,” he said. “The first is reaching a ceasefire as soon as possible because this means stopping the Syrian bloodshed and saving Syrians more destruction.”

Opposition activists reported more violence in Daraa, saying government forces bombarded towns and villages in the province.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Monday’s fighting was concentrated near the villages of Tafas and Nawa. It added that two weeks of fighting had killed 123 civilians.

The Nabaa Media, an opposition activist collective, also said fighting was taking place in Tafas and thousands of people fled towards the fence along the frontier with the Golan Heights. –AP