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UN: Syria refugee numbers jump 10 percent in a week

The number of registered Syrian refugees jumped 10 percent in just one week to more than 1.1 million, a UN aid official said

Source : Arab news / 16 Mar 2013

The number of registered Syrian refugees jumped 10 percent in just one week to more than 1.1 million, a UN aid official said yesterday.

Fighting in Syria has escalated in recent months, with the regime stepping up attacks on opposition strongholds. The UN refugee agency said the number of Syrians fleeing to neighboring countries has risen to 8,000 a day from 3,000 in December.

The regime is increasingly using indiscriminate, lethal battlefield weapons, including widely banned cluster bombs, in attacks on residential areas, the human rights groups Amnesty International said in a report yesterday.

“The frequency and scale of such attacks — which constitute war crimes — has increased in recent months, with disastrous consequences for the civilian population,”the group said.

UN officials said some 4 million of Syria’s 22 million people have been forced from their homes by the fighting, including 2 million who remain in Syria.

The UN said the number of Syrians who fled to neighboring countries is growing well beyond initial estimates. It said donor governments have sent only about one-fifth of the $ 1.5 billion needed to help displaced Syrians for the first six months of this year.

Yesterday, Reem Alsalem, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency, said more than 121,000 refugees have registered since then, a jump of more than 10 percent. Syrians are fleeing their country “at a rate faster than anyone anticipated,” she said.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres visited the Jordanian border with Syria late Wednesday and spoke to some of the refugees who had just crossed.

“There is horror from the endless conflict. Night after night, women, children, elderly people are crossing the border fleeing their country. Their country, in many aspects, is falling apart,”he said.

Guterres said the international funding was far off from what was “necessary, far from the magnitude of this drama.”

Meanwhile, warplanes bombarded fighter positions across strife-torn Syria yesterday, a watchdog said, while fierce clashes raged near the ancient citadel in the central city of Homs. Fighter jets rained bombs on targets in the southern province of Daraa, on Homs and Hama in the center, Raqa in the north and Idlib in the northwest, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Fighters meanwhile assaulted a checkpoint near the army-held citadel in the heart of Homs city, killing eight soldiers, the Britain-based Observatory said.

Also in Homs, fighting raged for the sixth consecutive day over the symbolic district of Baba Amr, which fighters infiltrated at the weekend in a surprise counter-offensive on an area captured a year ago by the army.

Yesterday’s violence comes a day after at least 159 people were killed across the country, among them 63 civilians.


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