More than 2,000 Syrian refugees are stranded in mountains overlooking the Lebanese town of Arsal, a nun involved in helping Syrian refugees in Lebanon said on Thursday.
“Between 2,000 and 2,500 Syrians who left Arsal to return to their country now find themselves up above the town and not receiving any help because it is a military zone and NGOs can’t reach them,” Sister Agnes told AFP.
“They were supposed to leave with a first party of 1,700 refugees but we weren’t able to take them. Then Arsal residents barred them from entry and the army won’t let them go to (the Bekaa valley town of) Ras Baalbek,” she said.
A spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR told AFP her team in the Bekaa region had “no information about these 2,000 refugees” but was closely following developments.
Mona Monzer added: “The situation in Syria is not suitable for a safe return and that is why (the UNHCR) is neither encouraging nor helping their return.”
The Sunni town of Arsal, whose residents have been broadly supportive of the rebellion against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is currently playing host to 47,000 Syrian refugees.
Many of them sought refuge there after Syrian government troops ousted rebels from the Qalamun region over the border.
From August 2 to 6, Arsal was the scene of fierce clashes between the Lebanese army and jihadists who came over from Syria.