MRAJEEB AL-FHOOD, Jordan — Struggling to cope with an influx of Syrian refugees, Jordan opened a second camp on Wednesday for Syrians fleeing the civil war at home.
The kingdom has sheltered nearly half a million refugees who escaped the two-year conflict, but officials fear that the number could double in the next six months as the fighting escalates.
Since the beginning of the year, 1,500 to 2,000 Syrians have been pouring into Jordan daily. Jordan was initially reluctant to set up refugee camps, possibly to avoid angering Syrian President Bashar Assad’s autocratic regime by showing images at his doorstep of civilians fleeing his military onslaught against them.
But last summer, Jordan opened the Zaatari refugee camp close to the Syrian border. And on Wednesday, a second desert camp — this one funded by the United Arab Emirates and run by its Red Crescent Society — opened its doors in Mrajeeb al-Fhood, about 23 miles from the border.
One of the first to enter was Ahmed al-Hassan, 30, a butcher who fled Syria with his wife and two young sons. He said it took them four days to reach Jordan after escaping the Baba Amr neighborhood in the central city of Homs.
They traveled on foot, at first along Syria’s border with Iraq, hitching rides and occasionally hiding in shops to escape government forces. Behind them, Hassan said, they left a wasteland that was recently recaptured by Assad’s troops.
‘‘There is nothing left there,’’ said Hassan, hugging his sons.
The rest of the family stayed behind in Baba Amr.
‘‘The Syrian military destroyed homes and buildings,’’ Hassan said. “The dead have been left to rot in the streets.’’
Other refugees appeared too frightened to speak to journalists, but the children quickly became cheerful after Emirati Red Crescent workers distributed food, colorful building blocks, and other plastic toys.
Majed Sultan bin Sulieman, the society’s relief director at the camp, said Mrajeeb al-Fhood will initially host 5,000 refugees but can be expanded to about 25,000 residents — all living in trailers.