News / Middle East

    UN: More Than 250,000 Have Fled Syria

    A Syrian refugee holds his child as he sits by his tent at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, September 9, 2012. A Syrian refugee holds his child as he sits by his tent at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, September 9, 2012.
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    A Syrian refugee holds his child as he sits by his tent at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, September 9, 2012.
    A Syrian refugee holds his child as he sits by his tent at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, September 9, 2012.
    The United Nations says the number of refugees who have fled Syria has reached more than 250,000, calling the humanitarian problems sparked by the conflict "our biggest crisis."

    The U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday there are more than 85,000 Syrians registered in Jordan, nearly 78,500 in Turkey, 67,000 in Lebanon and 22,500 in Iraq.

    Syrian Refugees by Country

    • Jordan: 85,000
    • Turkey: 78,500
    • Lebanon: 67,000
    • Iraq: 22,500

    Source: UNHCR
    Agency spokeswoman Sybella Wilkes says the numbers are increasing "by the thousands every day." She said UNHCR's two main priorities are for neighboring countries to keep their borders open and for a "dramatic increase" in international support to facilitate the effective accommodation of refugees.

    Wilkes described the conditions in Jordanian refugee camps - where 27,000 Syrians are sheltering in tents - as "unacceptable." She warned that the searing heat of summer will soon give way to harsh winter weather and praised Jordanians for opening up their homes to fleeing Syrian refugees.

    Jolie visits camp

    The U.N. refugee agency's special envoy, actress Angelina Jolie, speaks during a news conference with U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres (L) at a refugee camp in Jordan, Sept 11, 2012.The U.N. refugee agency's special envoy, actress Angelina Jolie, speaks during a news conference with U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres (L) at a refugee camp in Jordan, Sept 11, 2012.
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    The U.N. refugee agency's special envoy, actress Angelina Jolie, speaks during a news conference with U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres (L) at a refugee camp in Jordan, Sept 11, 2012.
    The U.N. refugee agency's special envoy, actress Angelina Jolie, speaks during a news conference with U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres (L) at a refugee camp in Jordan, Sept 11, 2012.
    Special UNHCR envoy, actress Angelina Jolie, is touring Jordan's Zaatari refugee camp along with U.N. refugee chief Antonio Guterres and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh.

    Jolie said Tuesday she heard "horrific" and "heartbreaking" accounts from Syrian refugees who fled the civil war in their country.

    "I am very concerned, the world is very concerned," the Hollywood star said during her high-profile visit aimed at focusing international attention on the plight of Syrian refugees and attracting more funding to help them. "What is very heartbreaking is when Syrian people ask you why you think no one is able to find a solution for them."

    Guterres said the "camp needs massive international funding."

    Aleppo fighting

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    Also Tuesday, activists said Syrian troops pounded the northern city of Aleppo to thwart a rebel advance. Violence and bloodshed were reported in other parts of Syria as peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was set to meet members of the Syrian opposition in Cairo ahead of a planned visit to Damascus for talks with officials.

    British Foreign Secretary William Hague was also in Cairo for talks with President Mohamed Morsi on Syria, amid heightened diplomacy in the Egyptian capital where Syrian neighbors also gathered to discuss the conflict.

    The first meeting of a regional contact group took place late Monday in Cairo with delegations from Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia gathering to discuss the deteriorating situation in Syria.

    On Monday, Syrian rebels posted an Internet video that appears to show the bodies of 20 soldiers whom they executed in Aleppo.

    In the video, the bodies of men dressed in military fatigues can be seen lined up on a pavement with their heads bloodied. The men were blindfolded and handcuffed. Rebels also can be heard calling the dead men "dogs." The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the incident happened within the past few days.

    • A Syrian child reacts while being treated by a doctor, in a hospital in Aleppo, Syria, September 11, 2012.
    • A Syrian woman looks back while walking with another woman past a pile of garbage left on a roadside in Aleppo, Syria, September 11, 2012.
    • Syrians walk by a building which was damaged by government airstrike in Aleppo, Syria, September 11, 2012.
    • A Syrian rebel fighter, right, eats while others chat as they wait for transportation to go fight government forces in Aleppo, September 10, 2012.
    • A Syrian child, whose displaced with her family due to fighting between the rebels and government forces, drinks water from a tanker in a school on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria, September 10, 2012.
    • Syrian rebel fighters raise their weapons as they head to fight government forces in Aleppo, in Suran, on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria, September 10, 2012.
    • A Syrian rebel fighter holds his rifle as he and other fighters head to Aleppo to fight government forces, at their headquarters in Suran, on the outskirts of Aleppo, Syria, September 10, 2012.

    U.N. officials have accused both Syrian government and rebel forces of committing atrocities in the country's civil war.

    In Geneva Monday, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged the U.N. Security Council to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court, to ensure that all perpetrators of rights violations do not escape justice.

    Mark Snowiss

    Mark Snowiss is a Washington D.C.-based multimedia reporter.  He has written and edited for various media outlets including Pacifica and NPR affiliates in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @msnowiss and on Google Plus

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