Thirty thousand flee in two days after Iraqis in exile are targeted

UP TO 30,000 Syrian refugees may have crossed into Lebanon in the past 48 hours, in a sharp increase of people fleeing fighting in the country, the United Nations refugee agency said yesterday.

UP TO 30,000 Syrian refugees may have crossed into Lebanon in the past 48 hours, in a sharp increase of people fleeing fighting in the country, the United Nations refugee agency said yesterday.

That would match the number of Syrians who have already fled to Lebanon during 16 months of unrest.

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Thousands of Iraqi nationals have also fled from Syria since Wednesday to escape an escalating civil war, local officials said.

The UN has said Iraqis – many of them Sunnis who fled violence in their own country after the US-led invasion – may increasingly be targets of Syria’s violence after a family of seven was gunned down in their apartment.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi army sealed the main border crossing to Syria with concrete blast walls yesterday to guard against any escalation in fighting after Syrian rebels seized a border post on the other side from government forces.

Witnesses said civilians had burned the main border post building at Abu Kamal in Syria. The Abu Kamal-Qaim border checkpoint, about 300km west of Baghdad on the Euphrates River highway, is one of the major trade routes across the Middle East.

An Iraqi government spokesman said Syrian rebels are controlling one major border crossing between the two countries, but three others remain under its control is processing fleeing migrants.