Aid groups and United Nations officials are pleading with the Syrian government and armed opposition groups to allow access to unarmed civilians, saying crimes against humanity "are the rule" as fighting rages on in the Syrian civil war.
U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović told members of the U.N. Security Council Tuesday the conflict is claiming about 5,000 lives a month and that there are documented cases of children being detained, tortured and executed. He said the number of incidents that can be classified as massacres has been steadily increasing.
U.N. officials place the blame both on government forces and armed opposition groups, charging both have prevented humanitarian aid from reaching civilians.
Šimonović said, at times, civilians trying to flee the fighting have been stopped at government checkpoints only to be sent back to their deaths.
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said Tuesday the Syrian refugee crisis is now the worst since the Rwandan genocide, with nearly 1.8 million people registered in neighboring countries.
Many aid groups say the crisis has rapidly depleted their resources.
The head of the World Food Program said in an interview with VOA that it will run out of money by the end of August. During a stop in Beirut, Ertharin Cousin said by the end of the year, four million inside Syria and three million outside will need emergency feeding, costing the WFP $168 million a month.
The United Nations launched a record $5.1 billion appeal last month to cope with the growing humanitarian crisis.
The refugee crisis
Many refugee camps are also feeling the strain. A camp set up last year in Iraqi Kurdistan to accommodate 25,000 people is now hosting about twice that number, with many families doubling up in tents.The sewage system cannot cope with the demand and Iraqi Kurdish authorities have repeatedly voiced frustration at the lack of outside support for the displaced Syrians within their territory.
A representative for the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told the U.N. Security Council Tuesday it has been doing everything it can to meet the humanitarian needs of its people. He also blamed many of the problems on terrorists, some of whom have infiltrated Syria from other countries. The Assad government often uses the term terrorist to describe opposition forces.
Violence in and around Syria has continued despite calls by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for a cease-fire during Ramadan.
A roadside bomb detonated near the Syrian-Lebanese border Tuesday, wounding at least two people.
Meanwhile, gunmen backing President Assad have killed seven members of a reconciliation team working in Homs province.
The killings happened Monday in the village of Hajar Abyad. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the area is a stronghold for pro-government militia and that the men were Sunni Muslims.
The reconciliation committee members were part of an effort to convince warring parties in Syria to halt the fighting that has stretched on for more than two years.
Homs is located at a strategic crossroad linking the capital, Damascus, with army bases in coastal regions controlled by Mr. Assad's Alawite sect. The Alawites are an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam that has dominated majority Sunni Syria for decades.