More than 4 500 Syrians fleeing a brutal crackdown on a revolt against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad have found shelter in neighbouring Lebanon, with hundreds crossing the border in the last two weeks, the UN said on Friday.
A report released by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said 4 510 Syrians, including women and children, had registered in northern Lebanon, up from 3 798 at the beginning of December.
The majority of those who fled to Lebanon this month hail from the central Homs region and nearby Tal Kalakh, where regime forces have sought to crush massive protests demanding Assad step down.
Most of them had settled with host families “in difficult circumstances” in villages near the border as well as in the Akkar district, located between the Lebanese-Syrian border and the coastal city of Tripoli, the report said.
Nineteen wounded Syrians, including an 11-year old girl, were also hospitalised in the north this week alone, according to UNHCR.
“Several were in coma when they reached the hospitals and one person reportedly died from his injuries,” read the report.
Syria has planted landmines along its border with Lebanon in a bid to prevent weapons smuggling and dissidents from fleeing the fierce crackdown by the regime in Damascus against a nine-month revolt, Lebanese officials in the north have said.
Lebanon and Syria share a 330km border but have yet to agree on official demarcation.
Syrian troops have regularly staged incursions into neighbouring Lebanon in recent weeks, killing at least three people when they opened fire on border villages, according to Lebanese officials.
Beirut is bitterly divided between pro- and anti-Damascus camps, and there are growing fears the bloodshed in Syria could spill over the border.
Lebanon’s Western-backed opposition, Washington and the UN have condemned the incursions.
But the Lebanese government, largely dominated by Hezbollah, a strong ally of the Syrian regime, has for the most part stayed silent on the issue.