Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Syrian Flee Their Country

More than 100,000 refugees flee Syria in one month

By the CNN Wire Staff

updated 9:21 AM EDT, Tue September 4, 2012

(CNN) -- More than 100,000 Syrians fled the country in August, by far the most of any previous month in the crisis, the United Nations said Tuesday.

Here are the latest key developments in the 18-month crisis:

Big spike in refugee numbers:

More than 103,400 Syrians fled to neighboring countries in August, bringing the total to more than 235,300 refugees who are registered or awaiting registration, the U.N. refugee agency said.

Syria's entire population is about 22.5 million, according to the CIA World Factbook. The number of refugees is more than 1% of the population.

Za'atari Refugee camp in northern Jordan, about six miles from the Syrian border, currently hosts over 20,000 Syrian refugees. UNICEF predicts 70,000 people will be living there by the end of the year.

Humanitarian crisis:

Inside the war-torn country, the head of the Red Cross is negotiating with Syrian officials this week for better access to civilians tormented by the bloody civil war.

Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, met Tuesday with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an agency spokeswoman said.

Maurer will meet with other officials Tuesday and Wednesday and might give a briefing on his talks later this week, spokeswoman Cecilia Goin said.
v The flow of aid has hardly kept up with the pace of violence in Syria, with scores or hundreds of people reportedly killed each day. Medics resort to makeshift clinics and crude supplies to treat the wounded, sometimes without electricity.

The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent have provided almost 180,000 Syrians with food and other essentials since mid-July. But some of the most desperate civilians remain trapped in relentless violence.

"In those places where fighting is taking place, it's very hard to access those people in need," Goin said.

"The humanitarian situation is deteriorating fast."

A sniper's bullet, a dying child, a family's desperation

The camp was opened less than a month ago to accommodate the growing number of refugees arriving in Jordan since the Syrian uprising began, almost 18 months ago.

Last month, U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos offered a grim account of the civil war's toll on the masses: more than a million uprooted; a million more in need of urgent aid.

Amos said she is "extremely concerned that all parties of the conflict are failing to comply with international humanitarian law, which sets out clear rules on the protection of civilians."

"This conflict has taken on a particularly brutal and violent character," she said after visiting Damascus.

Al-Assad's regime has said it will let aid groups already in the country expand their operations but won't allow new aid to enter.

Za'atari Camp was built on a barren desert plain without a tree or shrub in sight. Severe sand storms and scorching heat have taken their toll on refugees and aid workers here.

The government is worried the aid would get into the hands of "armed groups and terrorists," a phrase it uses to describe those seeking al-Assad's ouster.

But Tuesday, state-run news agency SANA reported that al-Assad "said Syria welcomes humanitarian operations carried out by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on the Syrian ground as long as it works independently and neutrally."

The SANA report said Maurer "expressed appreciation over the Syrian government's cooperation with the committee, hailing the bridge of confidence built between the two sides."

Goin, the ICRC spokeswoman, said her group has previously asked for a cease-fire to deliver aid. But bloodshed across the country has only intensified since.

"The national authorities and the armed opposition groups, they must respect and help facilitate" access by aid workers, Goin said. "The only goal of the organization is humanitarian."

On the ground:

At least 63 people were killed Tuesday, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.

The deaths included a woman and a child. Twenty-five people were "martyred" in the Damascus suburbs, the group said. Ten corpses were found "after being field-executed and seven of them were identified."

Other deaths were in Aleppo, Daraa, Hama, Homs, Lattakia, Idlib, and Deir Ezzor, the LCC said.

Syria, on state-run media, said authorities released 14 kidnapped people, and pursued and killed "terrorists." Throughout the conflict, the Syrian government has blamed "terrorists" for the violence.

A bomb in a taxi exploded Monday, "martyring five citizens and injuring 23 others," the state-run news agency SANA reported. The incident took place in the Damascus suburb Jaramana.

Information Minister Omran al- Zoubi said Monday "that what is happening in Syria is a massive conspiracy and an aggression using barbaric tools whose elements are obvious," SANA reported.

CNN's Holly Yan, Esprit Smith and Joe Sterling contributed to this report.

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