HERMEL, Lebanon: Local officials in Lebanon’s northeastern town of Arsal sounded the alarm Sunday over the lack of available space to house thousands of refugees from Syria who have flocked into the Lebanese-Syrian border as a result of clashes between Hezbollah-backed regime forces and rebel groups at the Qalamoun Hills.
An additional 500 Syrian families arrived at Arsal Sunday joining some 1,200 families who fled to the northeastern region earlier this week.
“We have placed them in mosques, wedding halls and in some host residencies but we are running out of place,” Arsal Deputy Mayor Ahmad Fliti told The Daily Star.
He urged the government as well as other United Nations refugee agencies to assist the town in coping with the sudden large influx of the refugees.
Fliti said that his town is now home to 2,000 families, an estimated 13,000 people including children.
The arriving Syrians have fled Qalamoun, a mountainous area lying roughly north of Damascus and adjacent to Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, where battles between President Bashar Assad’s forces and rebel groups are raging.
Media reports said the Syrian government's offensive in Qalamoun which began earlier this week is aimed at cutting rebel supply lines to opposition-held areas around the capital.
The influx marks a significant increase in the number of refugees in Arsal, a town that already hosts a refugee population of more than 30,000.
In its latest report on the Syrian refugee situation in Lebanon published Friday, the UNHCR said the number of displaced people in the country stood at 816,000, with around 11,000 newcomers between Nov. 8 and Nov. 15.
The Social Affairs Ministry said Saturday it was responding to the refugee crisis in Arsal and that concerned agencies were placed on full alert to address the influx.
The statement said a team from the ministry accompanied by a team from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had been dispatched to the area to assess the situation and take “the necessary measures.”