Four Syrian refugees found frozen to death in Lebanon mountains

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Four Syrian refugees -- two women and two children -- were found frozen to death Friday in a mountainous area of eastern Lebanon, local officials said.

Their bodies were found in the Ainata-Oyoun Orghosh area of the Mount Lebanon range, three days after they went missing, a civil defense source told AFP.

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They had been headed for Syria, he added.

The source said the four Syrians, including a child aged seven and an eight-year-old, got out of a car in a storm to continue on foot.

Bachir Khodr, the local governor, said on Twitter that the four had “died of freezing cold,” despite a search operation by security forces.

A Lebanese man who had been with them is to be questioned to determine whether he was a people smuggler, Khodr said.

Since the 2011 start of conflict in their country, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have crossed the border into Lebanon, often with people smugglers.

Those who cross illegally avoid official border posts to return.

Lebanon says it hosts 1.5 million Syrians -- nearly a million of whom are registered as refugees with the United Nations.

Nine out of ten Syrians in Lebanon live in extreme poverty, the UN says.

Lebanese authorities have pressured Syrians to return even though rights groups warn that Syria is not yet safe.

In January 2018, 17 Syrians died of extreme cold while attempting to flee into Lebanon.

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