New wave of Syrian refugees floods Lebanon

Filed on July 21, 2012

MASNAA (LEBANON) - Abdel Jaber, 45, is exhausted after fleeing his home in the Midan district of the Syrian capital of Damascus as fierce fighting engulfed the neighbourhood.

“We’ve spent the last three days in a shelter,” he says. Travelling with his wife and their six daughters, he passed through the Masnaa border post into eastern Lebanon, part of a massive new wave of refugees from Syria.

Jaber is traumatised by the ferocity of the fighting in Midan, in southern Damascus. “We couldn’t sleep at all, every time we heard firing or the sound of helicopters, we were terrified,” he says.

Jaber and his family are part of an exodus of Syrians from Damascus and elsewhere. Many have fled across the border into Lebanon in recent days. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees said that up to 30,000 Syrians have fled their homes in recent days, many of them leaving Damascus.

UNHCR said at least 1,500 Syrian refugees were staying in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa region, with others spread throughout the country.

Lebanon has already received thousands of Syrians fleeing violence, many of whom have found refuge with relatives.

Those fleeing Syria now are not only impoverished families caught in the crossfire, but also well-to-do businessmen. “It’s a real war. We left everything behind, our homes, our businesses, I haven’t had any news since,” says Khaled, a 52-year-old merchant who drove his family across the border at Masnaa on Friday.

“We left under bombardment,” he says, sitting in a centre attached to the Dar Al Fatwa in Lebanon.

At least 30 families, around 150 people, arrived at the centre on Friday alone, authorities said.

Even on the other side of the border, an aura of fear hangs over those who have escaped. None of them are willing to reveal their family name for fear of reprisals against them or their relatives.

Abu Mohammed, another businessman from Midan, says he never wants to return.

“There were helicopters, mortars, machine guns... we had to flee during the bombing or face dying under the roofs of our homes,” the father-of-three said.

Nahla, a 20-year-old student from the Zahira Al Jadida district said virtually everyone in her neighbourhood had fled the fighting. “Luckily, I have relatives in Lebanon,” she said.

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