The number of people who have fled their homes in the southern Syrian province of Daraa over the last two weeks of intense air assaults has climbed to 270,000, according to new figures from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
“Our latest update shows the figure of displaced across southern Syria has exceeded 270,000 people,” Reuters reported Mohammad Hawari, UNHCR spokesperson in Jordan, as saying on Monday, July 2.
“We were expecting the number of displaced in southern Syria to reach 200,000, but it has already exceeded 270,000 people in record time,” AFP reported Hawari as saying.
It is unclear how many people have been killed by Russian and Syrian air strikes since the operation began.
The U.N. has warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in southwest Syria amid a government offensive backed by Russia to clear remaining rebel-held areas.
Many people have fled to areas near the Jordan border and Israeli-held Golan Heights since the offensive, called Operation Basalt, began on June 19.
A spokesperson for the opposition, Ibrahim al-Jabbawi, said that at least 15 displaced people sheltering near the Jordanian border had also died of thirst and disease from unclear water, Middle East Monitor reported.
Earlier on Monday, AFP reported that the rebels in southern Syria were split over whether to accept deals offered by Russia to allow government forces to take control over opposition-held towns.
Regime forces have moved in to a number of rebel areas in recent days, doubling their territory in Daraa governorate to around 60 percent after rebel groups agreed to the Russian offer in exchange for an end to the aerial bombardment.
On Sunday, the town of Bosra al-Sham fell to government control after Shabab al-Sunna’s leader Ahmad Al-Awdeh agreed to the terms, AFP reported.