Syria’s refugee crisis in the north is now repeating itself in the south, with tens of thousands of destitute women, children and elderly people fleeing their homes – not this time from beleaguered Aleppo to the Turkish border, but from the southern region of Daraa towards the Jordanian and Israeli borders.
Unlike the broad coverage of the refugee crisis on the Syrian-Turkish border, the refugee exodus from the south has received scant media attention – even from Israeli correspondents.
With the intensification of attacks in southern Syria, about 50,000 refugees are now streaming toward Jordan and another 20,000 making tracks from Israel’s Golan border at Quneitra.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that, since the weather has cleared and Russian air strikes resumed against the rebels holding the northern part of Daraa, tens of thousands of civilians are on the move from the South. About 15,000 to 20,000 have reached the Jordanian border, and more than 30,000 are believed heading that way; while another 20,000 refugees may be making for the Golan town of Quneitra on the Israeli border.
Jordan has taken in 650,000 Syrian refugees in previous exoduses from the five-year old war.
A desperate SOS appeared on social media Wednesday, Feb. 10, in which the rebel-controlled Daraa Provincial Council warned that tens of thousands of civilians were in flight from Russian air strikes and the barrel bombs dropped by the Syrian warplanes and helicopters.
There was no way to bring water, food or medicines to the fleeing refugees.
Military sources monitoring the situation report that the exodus was first touched off by the fall of Alaman, 3 km north of Daraa in the last few days to Syrian and Hizballah forces. They next cut off parts of Highway 5 from Daraa to Damascus. The rebels were left with only one remaining escape route, the road to the Jordanian border, but that too is under heavy fire, forcing the refugees to go round through rough country.
As in Aleppo, the Darnah district is held by hundreds of assorted rebel militias, ranging from the US-backed Free Syrian Army to groups which have sworn allegiance to ISIS. According to our intelligence sources, it is often hard to determine which groups are taking orders from whom.
Jordan has followed the Turkish policy towards the tens of thousands of refugees massing on its border A single crossing is operating at Ramtha, but refugees are not allowed to pass through.
The Israeli government has not yet issued any statements of policy with regard to the Syrian refugees heading for the Golan.