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Minister visits refugee camp in Jordan as Syrian rebels 'shoot down' helicopter in Damascus

Plus, images of a war: refugees play home in the many camps set up in neighbouring countries as thousands continue to flee the violence.

Picture taken by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Jordan today.
Picture taken by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Jordan today.
Image: @DFATPressOffice via Twitter

JUNIOR MINISTER AT the Department of Foreign Affairs Joe Costello is in Jordan today to visit the Za’atri refugee camp which provides shelter to more than 7,000 people who fled their homes as a result of the ongoing conflict in Syria.

The camp was built in July to accommodate the thousands of Syrians – mostly women and children – fleeing the escalating violence in their own cities and towns.

Costello travelled to Jordan in order to assess the humanitarian consequences of the civil war and its wider impact on the region.

Although conditions in the desert camp are tough, refugees arrive in their hundreds each day. According to the department, it is located in a harsh environment with strong, dust-laden winds and temperatures of about 45 degrees Celsius.

Before his departure, Costello said, “Over 202,000 refugees have fled Syria and an additional 1.2 million are internally-displaced.  The purpose of my visit is to assess the humanitarian situation and needs on the ground and to demonstrate Ireland’s solidarity with those most affected by the devastating conflict in Syria.”

Irish Aid has provided €500,000 to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Food Programme. The funding is being used to provide immediate relief both within Syria and to assist those forced to flee.

Costello added that “given the intensification of the refugee crisis”, he will be holding further meetings on the ground to identify other ways to help.

He called on all parties to the conflict to fully respect international humanitarian law and ensure agencies are granted immediate and safe access to those in need.

Minister visits refugee camp in Jordan as Syrian rebels 'shoot down' helicopter in Damascus
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Back in Damascus, an activist group has claimed that a military helicopter caught fire and crashed during clashes between government forces and rebels.

State news agency SANA confirmed the Qaban incident but gave few details about what happened. Videos have been posted to YouTube purportedly showing the helicopter bursting into flames but it is impossible to verify reports independently as foreign journalists are restricted from working fully in Syria.

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The Syrian conflict began 17 months ago with mostly peaceful protests demanding that Assad step down, but it has since morphed into a civil war. Rights activists say at least 20,000 people have so far been killed.

Yesterday, the opposition said that 300 people were massacred by the government during an assault on the southwest suburb of Darayya. However, state media said the killings were the fault of terrorists.

At least 14 more bodies were discovered in the area today, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

-Additional reporting by AP

More: Syria: Dozens of bodies filmed as opposing sides blame each other for massacre>

Earlier: Costello to announce increase in humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees>

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