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Syria Crisis: Jordan Tightens Border Security

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A Syrian refugee passes by the playground at the Jordanian-run Al Bashabsheh refugee camp in Ramtha, Jordan,Tuesday, July 17, 2012. (AP photo/Mohammad Hannon, File)
A Syrian refugee passes by the playground at the Jordanian-run Al Bashabsheh refugee camp in Ramtha, Jordan,Tuesday, July 17, 2012. (AP photo/Mohammad Hannon, File)

AMMAN, Jordan -- Jordan's king has announced that security along the country's northern frontier has been tightened, but Syrian refugees fleeing violence will still be allowed to enter, officials said Monday.

King Abdullah II said at a Cabinet session late Sunday that government plans to protect the border were "moving in the right direction," a Royal Court statement said, without providing details.

"It is our duty to protect citizens, but at the same time, we have to open our doors to our Syrian brothers, and I'm very optimistic that the situation is moving in the right direction," the king said.

Government spokesman Sameeh Maaytah said the northern region was secured against "any infiltrations."

Jordan hosts more than 140,000 Syrian refugees. It has been concerned about Syria's civil war spilling across the border.

Jordan's first large-scale refugee camp for Syrians could be opened this week in the northern frontier region as numbers spike, U.N. refugee agency officials said.

"We expect the Zataari camp will open in the next couple of days," UNHCR representative to Jordan Andrew Harper said. He would not give a specific date.

Harper said the camp would initially host 5,000 refugees, but could eventually accommodate up to 130,000.

Since the uprising in Syria broke out in March 2011, most refugees fleeing to Jordan have been housed in apartments or with private families. Others have stayed in heavily-guarded housing compounds in several towns along the border. As the influx increased earlier this month, the government was forced to open a trailer park camp in the northern town of Ramtha to house Syrian families.

Zaatari will be the first tent camp in the country, like those found along Syria's border with Turkey. Maayteh said earlier that the camp had to be set up because Syrian refugees could no longer be absorbed into border communities.

Authorities here had been reluctant to set up tent camps, possibly to avoid angering Syrian President Bashar Assad's autocratic regime by showing images at his doorstep of civilians fleeing his military onslaught against them. Syria also has been one of Jordan's largest Arab trade partners, with bilateral trade estimated at $470 million last year.

A separate camp, which was to host the UNHCR tents, was set up months ago in the town of Ribaa Sarhan near the Syrian border, but has remained unused. Recently, authorities said it could be opened to serve as an `overflow' facility to process newly-arrived refugees.

Jordan continues to host hundreds of thousands of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees. It said the latest influx of Syrians is taxing its scarce health resources and water supplies and has appealed for international aid.

The U.S. Embassy in Jordan meanwhile announced on Sunday plans to give the kingdom an additional $100 million in aid, in part to help bear the refugee burden.

The money "will be in direct budget support and will help the Government of Jordan as it works to address the strains on the national budget as result of the continuing effects of the global financial crisis, the repeated disruption of the Egyptian natural gas pipeline, and the added cost of providing subsidized social services and basic commodities to those fleeing the violence in Syria," an embassy statement said.

The flow of gas from Egypt has been disrupted by militant attacks in the lawless Sinai Peninsula.

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lebanon Hussein Ali Omar, 60, one of 11 Lebanese Shiite pilgrims that Syrian rebels have been holding for three months in Syria, hugs his mother, right, upon arrival at his house in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, 2012. Syrian rebels freed Omar on Saturday in a move aimed at easing cross-border tensions after a wave of abductions of Syrian citizens in Lebanon. The Shiite pilgrims were abducted May 22 after crossing into Syria from Turkey on their way to Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)


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France24 correspondents Matthieu Mabin and Sofia Amara report from the front lines of a rebel offensive against the Syrian army in Damascus.

Watch the exclusive report in the video below.

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syria This image made from video and released by Shaam News Network and accessed Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, purports to show the funeral of children in Daraya, near Damascus, Syria. Syrian troops backed by tanks and helicopters broke into a Damascus suburb on Thursday following two days of shelling and intense clashes as part of a widening offensive by President Bashar Assad's forces to seize control of parts of the capital and surrounding areas from rebel fighters, activists said. At least 15 people were killed in the offensive on Daraya, only a few miles (kilometers) southwest of Damascus. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network SNN via AP video)


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Clashes between Assad supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime killed two people in Lebanon on Friday, the Associated Press reports. 17 people were injured.

The AP gives more context:

Syria was in virtual control of its smaller neighbor for many years, posting tens of thousands of troops in Lebanon, before withdrawing under pressure in 2005. Even without soldiers on the ground, Syria remains influential, and its civil war has stirred longstanding tensions that have lain under Lebanon's surface.

Read more on HuffPost World.

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lebanon A Sunni gunman fires a gun during clashes that erupted between pro and anti-Syrian regime gunmen in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Friday, Aug. 24, 2012. The latest round of fighting first erupted on Monday in northern Lebanon and at least 15 have been killed in Tripoli this week and more than 100 have been wounded in fighting that is a spillover from Syria's civil war. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)


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@ KenRoth : UN reports 200,000 #Syria refugees, 30,000 in past week alone. Many more internally displaced not counted. http://t.co/BaM6u59j

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syria Syrian boy Musataf Alhafiz, 11, who fled his home with his family due to fighting between the Syrian army and the rebels, carries his brother Saif, 9 months, while he and others take refuge at the Bab Al-Salameh border crossing, in hopes of entering one of the refugee camps in Turkey, near the Syrian town of Azaz, Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012. Thousands of Syrians who have been displaced by the country's civil war are struggling to find safe shelter while shelling and airstrikes by government forces continue. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)


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Helicopter gunships shelled Damascus on Wednesday as Syrian security forces intensified their assault on the capital. Activists report that at least 47 people were killed.

"The whole of Damascus is shaking with the sound of shelling," a woman in the neighborhood of Kfar Souseh told Reuters.

Read more on HuffPost World.

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@ jenanmoussa : Graphic. We saw in a mosque in #Syria these 4 children staring at dead body. Pic by @HaraldDoornbos: http://t.co/lgq8IAmO #warsucks @akhbar

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lebanon Lebanese commandos ride in an armored personnel carrier in preparation to enter the area of clashes between supporters and opponents of the Syrian regime, in the northern port city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012. The civil war in Syria is affecting its fragile, tiny neighbor Lebanon in countless ways and has already spilled over into sectarian street clashes, kidnappings and general government paralysis.(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)


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Activists say that Syrian security forces swept through two districts in Damascus on Wednesday, killing at least 31 suspected opposition fighters. The Associated Press reports that the army may have been targeting rebel teams that had been using the Nahr Eishah and Kfar Soussa neighborhoods to shell a nearby military airport.

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@ AP : Russia says Western powers are "openly instigating" opposition groups in Syria: http://t.co/Il6rHsxr -SC

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