Syrian regime preventing women and children from fleeing country
Syria's Assad regime is trying to stop women and children fleeing the country, according to reports from refugees and activists.
The attempt, which appears well organised and is assumed to be intended to prevent men defecting or joining the opposition, has led to a build-up of thousands of refugees inside the borders with Lebanon and particularly Jordan.
"Most families that fled to Lebanon in recent weeks escaped Syria using smuggling routes," said Burhan Abu Saleh, a spokesman for a volunteer Syrian refugee group.
"Some have relatives who are activists, and so would risk arrest at the official border, but many went and were turned back. Every day it is becoming more difficult."
Rana, a refugee in Lebanon who would not give her full name, said she had been forced to pay a bribe to cross the border.
"Security forces were attacking my neighbourhood in Aleppo," she said.
"I fled with nothing but I had to pay $40 (€30) to be allowed to cross."
A number of opposition activists abroad say their families inside the country have been taken away or beaten up in retaliation, while defecting members of the regime's army have described waiting until they were able to accompany their families abroad before crossing over earlier in the uprising.
But tens of thousands of refugees are continuing to try to leave, despite the current supposed ceasefire and peace plan put forward by the UN envoy, Kofi Annan.
Yesterday, members of the UN monitoring mission withdrew from Arbeen, a Damascus suburb, after troops started shooting at a crowd of protesters, activists said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)