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UN Launches $4.4 Billion Appeal to Help Syrians

Estimating that 6.8 million Syrians are in need of urgent help, the United Nations on Friday launched a record $4.4 billion international aid appeal for operations in Syria and neighboring countries.

The U.N. reports its combined appeal tops the $5 billion mark when appeals by Jordan and Lebanon for $830 million are factored in. It says it already has pledges of about $1.4 billion.

The funds would help care for those displaced inside Syria by the ongoing civil war, as well as Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.

Helping launch the appeal in Geneva, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees predicted Syria's refugees could more than double in number by year's end, reaching 3.5 million.

U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos called the crisis a "human tragedy." She said more than 80,000 people have now been killed in Syria since protests against President Bashar al-Assad's government began in March 2011.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese army warned residents on Friday about getting embroiled in spillover fighting from Syria's civil war.

The warning came as fierce clashes in the northern city of Tripoli between supporters and opponents of President Assad eased on Friday. Deadly clashes between Damascus supporters and opponents inside Lebanon have been on the rise recently.

A military statement said the Lebanese Army urges citizens to be wary of "plots" aimed at taking Lebanon backwards and "dragging it into a futile war."