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Syria Live Coverage: The Refugee Emergency Grows

See also Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: The 2-Year Anniversary of the Uprising
Thursday's Syria Live Coverage: A Growing Crisis Over Food?

2019 GMT: Death Toll Reaches 112. According to the Local Coordination Committees, 112 people have been killed today nationwide:

28 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its Suburbs, 18 in Homs including an entire family, 17 in Daraa, 17 in Aleppo, 16 in Idlib, 10 in Hama, 3 in Deir Ezzor, 2 in Raqqa and 1 in Hassakeh.

See our note on the casualty figures published by the LCC.

2015 GMT: Idlib Prison Captured by Rebels. Rebel forces have stormed the central Idlib prison, releasing 300 prisoners according to activists. Several videos show the battle for the prison and the releasing of some prisoners:

Another video claims to show prisoners being treated at an opposition field hospital.

According to a source, as the Ahrar Alsham and Suqoor Alsham brigades raced to free the prisoners, Assad jets bombed the area. This video appears to show a jet fighter conducting a bombing raid:

According to the same source, there is heavy fighting going on elsewhere in Idlib, as well as in Jisr al Shughour:

There was a convoy trying to reach the prison, that failed and now they're fighting again in a previously liberated checkpoint.

The LCC and other opposition sources also report heavy fighting at several checkpoints around Idlib city, and in the countryside near Jisr al Shughour.

1908 GMT: Death Toll Rises. According to the Local Coordination Committees, 93 people have been killed so far today:

28 martyrs were reported in Damascus and its Suburbs, 16 in Daraa, 16 in Idlib, 15 in Aleppo, 11 in Homs, 3 in Hama, 3 in Deir Ezzor, and 1 in Hassakeh.

1646 GMT: Record Number of Refugees Flee to Jordan. According to the UN, there have never been this many refugees to flee into Jordan in a single 24 hour period:

More than 6,400 refugees have arrived in Jordan since Thursday, the UN refugee agency said, bringing to over 30,000 the number of arrivals since the start of the month.

No one has mentioned why, however. The likely reason is the sudden intensification of fighting in Daraa province, near the Jordanian border. The insurgency has slowly been gaining strength here, and the regime and the rebels appear to both be making pushes to bring the fight to a head. Daraa is almost a forgotten story of the insurgency, as the amount of fighting in the region has slowly increased for months now. However, extremely well-armed Syrian rebels appear to be making serious inroads in the district, and the Assad airstrikes and artillery barrages appear to be a response to this sudden threat.

1600 GMT: 54 Killed So Far Today. According to the Local Coordination Committees, 54 people have been killed so far today:

16 martyrs were reported in Daraa, 16 in Damascus and its Suburbs, 11 in Homs,4 in Idlib, 3 in Hama, 2 in Deir Ezzor, 1 in Aleppo, and 1 in Hassakeh.

According to earlier reports, at least 5 of the dead in Daraa province were from Saida (map). There are also reports of intense fighting in Dael (map), where the FSA has clashed with regime forces.

The Local Coordination Committees (LCC) is an activist network operating both inside and outside of Syria. They claim to use stringent verification processes to ensure that a member of the LCC can vouch for any information posted either on their Facebook page or their website. The LCC also populates a database of those killed in the Syrian conflict, which can be seen at the website for the Center for Documentation of Violations in Syria.

The LCC's casualty figures are a mix of insurgents and civilians, and never include regime casualties. Syrian State Media has stopped reporting regime casualty figures.

1548 GMT: Al Nusra Conducts Another Attack. Bloomberg, quoting the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, reports that Al Nusra has conducted another car bomb attack:

At least eight members of Syrian military intelligence were killed by a car bomb near an army building in the southern town of Sa’sa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The attack late yesterday was carried out by the Al-Nusra Front, an Islamist group that has fought as part of the rebel movement seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, the U.K.-based Observatory, which supports the opposition, said in an e-mailed statement today.

There does not seem to be any mention of the attack on Syrian State media's SANA, though there are various claims of "scores" of terrorists killed in operations across the country.

1519 GMT: Tank Destroyed in Darayya. For two weeks we've been discussing a growing body of evidence that Assad's military is once again sending tanks into Syrian cities without infantry protection, a tactic that experts we've consulted think is folly. Some have suggested that this tactic is being pursued because Assad doesn't have enough infantry to spare.

Many of the videos we've posted of this kind have been from Darayya, perhaps the most important suburb of Damascus (map). Despite claims that the city was recaptured by Assad's military weeks ago, the rebel resistance in Darayya has been strong, and many tanks have been destroyed. Brown Moses shares another video, taken today, that shows how vulnerable Assad's tanks are as they try to dislodge the rebels:

Brown Moses also sends us this video, taken in the same city. The small-arms fire can keep the tank crew from manning the machine guns, which could leave the tank vulnerable to an RPG strike.

1456 GMT: Homs Under Attack. The Syrian regime has been hammering Homs with artillery shells and airstrikes off and on (mostly on) for several weeks. The sudden intensification of regime activities has likely been related to renewed movements from rebels, but the picture in Homs is less clear now than ever.

Reuters offers a plausible explanation:

The Syrian army has stepped up an offensive on opposition Sunni Muslim strongholds in the central city of Homs, bringing in ground forces and loyalist militia to try to secure a major road junction, opposition sources said on Friday.

Around 15,000 Sunni civilians are trapped on the southern and western edge of the city near the intersection of Syria's main north-south and east-west arteries, crucial to let the army travel between Damascus and the Mediterranean coast, opposition campaigners in Homs said.

Rebels said they had moved into new areas of Homs this month to grab more territory, which could explain the offensive. Activists said that rebels had asked them not to report on the advances because it could provoke retaliatory strikes.

Today, the bombardment of Homs continues. This video reportedly shows the attacks on Kafaraya, a village in the southwest corner of the city (map):

Smoke rises, reportedly above Old Homs in the center of the city (map) after intense shelling:

James Miller takes over today's live coverage. Thanks to Scott Lucas for getting us started today.

1238 GMT:Refugees.The Interior Ministry has called on all Syrian citizens who have left the country due to the continuing crisis to return home.

According to the Ministry this complies with the 7th article of the political program to solve the crisis which offers guarantees to Syrian citizens who want to return home.

The Ministry also declared that “It is allowed to all Syrian opposition powers abroad who have the desire to participate in the national dialogue to enter Syria regardless of the documents they bear through Damascus international airport, border points of Jdaidat Yabous, Nasib, Kassab and al-Tanf.”

1225 GMT: Protests. Back from an academic break and Internet problems to find an example of today's anti-regime protests from the town of Ma'arat Misrin:

Talbiseh in Homs Province:

0625 GMT: Casualties. The Local Coordination Committees claim 116 people, including nine women and seven children, were killed on Thursday. There were 42 deaths in Damascus and its suburbs, 20 in Aleppo Province, 17 in Homs, and 17 in Idlib Province.

0615 GMT: Refugees. Jordan is the latest country to appeal for emergency help amid the surge in Syrians fleeing the 22-month conflict.

After about 20,000 Syrians entered Jordan in  the past week, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said that Amman had requested urgent support from international donors.

A record 6,000 Syrians crossed into Jordan on Tuesday alone.  The influx has pushed Jordan's lone Syrian refugee camp well beyond its 60,000-person capacity, with Jordanian officials saying they need  funds to build two more camps for an additional 50,000 refugees. 

Lebanon issued its own appeal to the international community last week after its Syrian refugees passed the 200,000 mark. Turkey warned last year that it was close to full capacity when numbers topped 100,000 --- tens of thousands of displaced Syrians are in camps on the Turkish border, waiting for entry.

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