Syrians fearing retribution pour into Lebanon
Assad regime opens borders to U.N. envoys
QAA, LEBANON | Syrian refugees fleeing to neighboring Lebanon on Monday said they feared they would be slaughtered in their homes as government forces hunted down opponents in a brutal offensive against the opposition stronghold of Homs.
Activists accused the regime of trying to hide its crimes from the world as the military cracks down on an anti-government uprising that has raged for nearly a year.
With world pressure at a peak in the boiling crisis, the Syrian regime agreed to admit two prominent international emissaries it previously had rebuffed — former U.N. Secretary-general Kofi Annan, the new special envoy to Syria, and U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos.
Mr. Annan goes to Damascus on Saturday, and Ms. Amos said she will arrive in the capital on Wednesday and leave on Friday.
Ms. Amos said the aim of the visits is “to urge all sides to allow unhindered access for humanitarian relief workers so they can evacuate the wounded and deliver essential supplies.”
The Obama administration added Syrian state television and radio to a U.S. sanctions list — part of an effort to block Syrian government assets within the U.S.
The Treasury Department’s sanctions chief, Adam Szubin, said the Syrian General Organization of Radio and TV has “served as an arm of the Syrian regime as it mounts increasingly barbaric attacks on its own population and seeks both to mask and legitimize its violence.”
He said any institutions supporting President Bashar Assad government’s “abhorrent behavior will be targeted and cut off from the international financial system.”
The U.N. refugee agency said Monday that as many as 2,000 Syrians had crossed into Lebanon over the last two days.
Lebanese security officials say more than 10,000 Syrians are believed to be in the country. One official said as many as 3,000 are believed to have crossed in recent days because of violence in Homs, though it is unclear how many have returned to Syria.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity under government protocol.
Inside Lebanon, many Syrians fear agents from their own country’s security services. Stories have circulated of kidnappings and collaboration between Lebanese and Syrian security forces. Syria controlled Lebanon for decades and Hezbollah, the party which now dominates Lebanon’s government, is closely allied with Syria and Iran.
Turkey says it hosts more than 11,000 Syrians in camps along the border with Syria, including more than 1,000 who crossed in the last month. About 100 have crossed in the last two days.
Jordan has more than 80,000 Syrian refugees, according to the government.
The United Nations is sending two envoys to Syria to press the case to allow humanitarian relief workers unhindered access. These Syrian children fled with their families from Qusair, near Homs, to the Lebanese-syrian border village of Qaa.