Thousands flee Syria as Assad says ‘I have no regrets’

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Eleven thousand Syrians have fled the country in the past 24 hours, the UN says.

Nine thousand Syrians fled to Turkey, while 1,000 went into Jordan and 1,000 into Lebanon just in one day, Panos Moumtzis, said the UN refugee agency’s co-ordinator for the region.

It compares with an average of 2,000 to 3,000 Syrians fleeing each day and brings the number of Syrian registered refugees to more than 408,000.

Radhouane Nouicer, the UN’s regional humanitarian co-ordinator for Syria, said that the country is seeing unrelenting increases in violence.

Earlier, reports said a group of Syrian soldiers, including two generals and 11 colonels, had fled to Turkey with their families seeking refuge in a camp that shelters military defectors.

The group of 71 people arrived in Hatay, said Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency.

Meanwhile Syria’s president Bashar Assad said his country is not in a state of civil war, and that he has no regrets about any decisions he has made since the uprising against him began nearly 20 months ago.

Mr Assad claimed Syria is facing “terrorism through proxies,” referring to foreign backing of the rebellion against his regime. An increasing number of Arab states are backing the rebels, although Assad claims it is a plot led by Israel, the US and Western powers.

Syria’s uprising began in March 2011 as mostly peaceful protests against Mr Assad’s corrupt family dynasty, but following savagely brutal repression of the protests, the conflict turned into a civil war. The fighting has taken on grim sectarian tones, with the predominantly Sunni rebels battling forces loyal to a regime dominated by minority Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Anti-government activists say more than 36,000 people have been killed for far.

“We do not have a civil war,” Mr Assad said in an interview with the English-language Russia Today TV. Russia, China and Iran back the Assad regime in defiance of international outrage.

The former British eye doctor, who took over Syria after the death of his father and is married to a woman who grew up in London, was asked if he has any regrets, and replied: “Not now.”