Photo credit Photo Caption lead in IDLIB: This citizen journalism image provided by Shaam News Network SNN, taken on Tuesday, July 3, 2012, purports to show Free Syrian Army soldiers standing near a Syrian military tank in Idlib, north Syria. The head of Syria’s U.N. observer mission says violence in the country has reached “unprecedented” levels and he called for an end to the bloodshed. AP/PTI (AP7_5_2012_000087B) Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Up to 5,000 Syrians have sought refuge in Jordan over the past week from the bloodshed in their country, in a possible prelude to a largescale influx, the UN refugee agency said on Thursday.

Zayed Hammad, head of the Ketab and Sunna Society which takes care of more than 50,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, said that “over 1,000 Syrians fled to the kingdom since dawn on Thursday.”

In Syria government troops backed by helicopters advanced on Thursday into the rebellious northern town of Khan Sheikhoun, activist residents said, one of many fronts being contested by forces loyal to President Bashar Al Assad and pro-democracy rebels.

Rebel fighters suffered heavy loses during battles late on Wednesday night in Khan Sheikhoun, a town in rural Idlib province that straddles the strategic western highway linking Damascus and Aleppo.

Rami Abdelrahman, a human rights activist who monitors and records violence in Syria, said in a email that 97 people had been killed on Wednesday in fighting across Syria.

Over the past few weeks, daily death tolls of over a hundred have become common. Meanwhile, China joined Russia on Thursday in boycotting a “Friends of Syria” meeting aimed at coordinating efforts to stop violence in the country, where three senior regime officers are among the latest to be killed.

Ahead of the meeting, Syrian President Bashar AL Assad insisted he enjoyed popular support in his country in an interview published on Thursday.

“At the end of the day, we are human too,” he told the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet. “We can make mistakes,” he conceded, referring to his administration’s handling of the public protests that erupted in March last year.

But the president insisted that outside intervention was responsible for the conflict in his country. He accused foreign backers of financing the protests.