GENEVA  - The number of Syrian refugees in Jordan is expected to triple to 1.2 million by the end of the year, the UN said Friday, lamenting a dire lack of funding for aid operations in the country.The UN estimates that around 385,500 Syrians have already sought refuge in Jordan, including nearly a quarter of a million children. “We expect these numbers to more than double by July and triple by December,” Marixie Mercado, spokeswoman for the UN children’s agency, told reporters.The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, confirmed that it now expects the number of Syrian refugees in Jordan to surge to around 1.2 million by the end of 2013 — equivalent to about one-fifth of Jordan’s total population.Jordan itself meanwhile says it is already hosting more than 475,000 refugees from Syria, but has said until now it expects that number to rise to just 700,000 by the end of the year. The UN estimates that a total of around 1.2 million Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries over the past two years of spiralling bloodshed. UNHCR said Friday it could not yet forecast the overall number of Syrian refugees by the end of 2013, or say how many it expects to see in the other main host countries, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq.Mercado meanwhile lamented that her agency’s operations connected to the Syrian crisis were severely underfunded, stressing that the situation in Jordan was especially dire. “The needs are rising exponentially, and we are broke,” she said. Unicef, she said, was currently providing things like safe water, sanitation, vaccines and education in Jordan’s Zaatari camp, which houses nearly 150,000 Syrian refugees.So far, however, the agency had received only $12 million, or 19 per cent of the $57 million it had appealed for to fund its Jordan operations this year, meaning it would soon need to “scale back life-saving support,” Mercado said.“In concrete terms, this means that by June, we will stop delivering 3.5 million litres of water every day to Zaatari camp. This means we won’t be able to open the third school we are building at Zaatari, because we simply don’t have the funds to cover the teachers’ salaries, the textbooks, the furniture and the running costs of the school,” she said.Lacking funds also meant, she warned, that “Unicef will not be able to provide water, sanitation, education, immunisation and nutrition support to two new camps slated to open in coming weeks.”Turkey, on a renewed push to join the EU, has adopted a long-awaited law to regulate migration and asylum in a move hailed Friday by the European bloc. The country, which bridges Europe and Asia, is hosting up to 400,000 refugees escaping conflict in neighbouring Syria and is under pressure to regulate their legal status at a time when it is bent on relaunching stalled EU entry talks.The White House said on Friday that President Barack Obama will host leaders from key US allies Jordan, Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in the coming weeks, amid turmoil in Syria. The US administration said Jordan’s King Abdullah II will meet with Obama on April 26 for talks “Jordan’s political and economic reforms, the humanitarian crisis in Syria, and additional regional issues of mutual concern.”Obama will then host Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on May 16 for talks on “Syria, trade and economic cooperation, and countering terrorism. “As friends and Nato allies, the United States and Turkey are partners in addressing a range of critical global and regional issues,” a statement said.Obama will host Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan of the United Arab Emirates on April 16, and will meet with Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani on April 23. US Secretary of State John Kerry will meanwhile head back to the Middle East early next week for his third trip in a month to see if there might be a way to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table.Rebels seized a government checkpoint on a key highway from Damascus to the border with Jordan on Friday, a watchdog said, as fighting intensified on the outskirts of the capital. “Rebel fighters took control of the Umm al-Mayathin military checkpoint... in Daraa province in clashes with regime forces,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.“Two fighters were killed and others wounded,” the group added, saying there was no immediate word on any army casualties.The checkpoint lies close to the border with Jordan, along the main highway from Damascus. Rebels already control the town of Khirbet Ghazaleh, further north towards the capital.Meanwhile, fierce fighting raged between troops and rebels in Daraya, southwest of the capital, with the Observatory also reporting shelling by the army of neighbouring Moadamiyet al-Sham. The fighting in Daraya is part of a campaign by government forces to recapture areas on the outskirts of Damascus that rebels have been using as launchpads for attacks on the capital.Inside the city, shelling of the northern Barzeh neighbourhood killed at least seven people, including two children and three women, the Observatory said. In Aleppo, fighting continued for the strategic Sheikh Maqsud neighbourhood, where high ground provides a vantage point over much of the northern city.Rebel forces also fired on both Aleppo International Airport and Neirab military airbase, the Observatory said.Rebels have laid siege to both since February, in a bid to disrupt the movement of military aircraft. Nationwide, violence killed at least 36 people on Friday, said the Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and doctors inside Syria.