Two smugglers arrested by Lebanese army patrol
Fierce snowstorm kills ten Syrians seeking safety in Lebanon
Ten Syrians have died trying to flee their war-torn country into neighbouring Lebanon after they were caught in a fierce snowstorm, the Lebanese army and civil defence said on Friday.
"They died of the cold. They included two children, six women and two men," said Georges Abou Moussa, head of operations at the Lebanese civil defence.
Rescue workers and Lebanese troops had retrieved the bodies together.
In a statement, the army said it had received a tip on Friday morning that a group of Syrian refugees had become stuck in snow while trying to cross the mountainous frontier between the two countries.
"An army patrol found the bodies of nine refugees who died as a result of the snowstorm. It rescued six others, one of whom died in the hospital as a result of frostbite," it said.
According to the statement, troops also arrested two Syrians who were involved in trying to smuggle the refugees across the border near Masnaa.
Lebanon, a country of four million, hosts over one million Syrians who have sought refuge from the war raging in their homeland since 2011 - the second-largest population of Syrian refugees in the region, and the highest per capita population of refugees in the world. The government estimates the true number to be 1.5 million.
In January 2016, Lebanese authorities sent hundreds of Syrians travelling through the Beirut airport back to Syria without first assessing the risks they could face upon returning.
Many live in informal tented settlements in the country's east and struggle to stay warm in the winter.
Lebanon and Syria share a 330-kilometre border with no official demarcation at several points.
For several years after Syria's uprising began, refugees flowed into Lebanon.
But Lebanese authorities introduced new restrictions in 2015 in order to curb the number of Syrians entering the country.