Jordan plans 2nd camp for Syrian refugees

Jordan says it is planning to open a second camp for Syrian refugees, whose numbers are expected to climb to 250,000 by the year's end.

Turkey searches Syria-bound Armenian plane

Residents at the Zataari refugee camp in Jordan line up outside the UN warehouse. (Derek Stoffel/CBC)

Jordan says it is planning to open a second camp for Syrian refugees, whose numbers are expected to climb to 250,000 by the year's end.

Government spokesman for Syrian refugee affairs Anmar Hmoud says the proposed site is at Marajeeb al-Fahood, 44 kilometres east of the capital Amman. He did not say when it would open.

The UN refugee agency says Jordan currently hosts 210,000 Syrian refugees — the largest number in the region. Those arriving through unofficial border crossings are housed in Zaatari camp, now home to more than 33,000 refugees. Many more live among Jordanian families.

Zaatari has seen violent protests over its harsh desert conditions in recent weeks.

Hmoud said Monday the new camp could initially house 5,000 but expand to hold 45,000 residents.

Syrian-bound Armenian plane diverted

In a separate development, Turkish authorities on Monday searched the cargo of an Armenian plane bound for Syria after forcing the aircraft to land in the eastern Turkish city of Erzurum, Turkey's foreign ministry spokesman said.

Selcuk Unal said Turkey granted the plane carrying aid for the Syrian city of Aleppo a permission to fly over its airspace only on condition it can be searched for possible military equipment.

The plane was later given the all-clear to continue on its journey to Syria.

Turkey forced a Syrian passenger plane flying from Moscow to Damascus to land in Ankara last week. Turkey said the Syrian Air plane was carrying military gear. Russia said the equipment was spare parts for radar systems.

Syria and Turkey barred each other's aircraft from flying over their territory over the weekend.

Historic mosque in Aleppo badly damaged

Inside Syria, President Bashar Assad has ordered immediate repairs at a historic mosque in the city of Aleppo after fierce fighting between rebels and regime forces set parts of the compound on fire, Syrian TV said Monday.

Fire burns after fighting at the Grand Umayyad mosque in Aleppo. This photo was taken on Oct. 13, 2012. (Shaam News Network/Reuters)

Government troops had been holed up inside the place of worship in downtown Aleppo for several months before rebels fighting to topple Assad launched a push to liberate it this week.

The 13th-century Grand Umayyad mosque is a UNESCO world heritage site. It's one of the oldest and largest in Syria, built around a vast courtyard and enclosed in a compound adjacent to Aleppo’s medieval citadel.

In the past few weeks, rebels controlled one entrance to the mosque compound while the army controlled the other.

Now the regime and the rebels are trading accusations over who is responsible for the fire.

Syrian TV said Assad issued a presidential decree to form a committee to repair the mosque by the end of 2013. Aleppo has been the scene of intense fighting for months.