More than 1.5 million Syrians have fled their conflict-ravaged homeland, the UN’s refugee agency said Friday, warning that the real figure could be even higher as the tally only reflected those who register with aid groups.
Dan McNorton, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters that close to 250,000 Syrians were being registered each month.
“Refugees tell us the increased fighting and changing of control of towns and villages, in particular in conflict areas, results in more and more civilians deciding to leave,” McNorton said.
“Over the past four months we have seen a rapid deterioration when compared to the previous 20 months of this conflict,” he added.
McNorton underlined that the actual number of refugees was likely to be even higher than 1.5 million.
“This is due to concerns that some Syrians have regarding registration,” he said, explaining that rumors circulating among exiles about the supposed security risks of signing up for refugee status put some people off.
He said aid agencies were working to encourage waivers to register in order to be able to receive official help, even as UNHCR struggles to keep up with the rising numbers and needs.
“The increasingly widening gap between the needs and resources available is a growing challenge,” he said.
“UNHCR continues to respond to the emergency needs of those in desperate need inside Syria and neighboring countries,” he added.
Syrians have surged out of their country since March 2011, when a crackdown on protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad heralded the start of an armed rebellion.
Numbers ballooned as the conflict morphed into an increasingly sectarian civil war, and the total topped a million in March this year.
Most have fled to neighboring Jordan, where close to 474,000 have been registered by UNHCR or are waiting registration, and to Lebanon, with over 470,000.
Some 347,000 are in Turkey, over 147,000 in Iraq and close to 67,000 in Egypt, according to UNHCR’s latest data.
In addition to the refugees, the United Nations has said that more than 4.25 million Syrians are displaced within their homeland.
That means that, all told, over a quarter of Syria’s pre-war population of 22.5 million have been forced to quit their homes since the conflict began.
The death toll has surpassed 90,000, according to the UN.
AFP - 05/17/2013
The Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition on Thursday said regime forces have attacked the village of Khirbet Suda in Homs province and murdered at least 18 people.
“Victims were either killed by execution at gunpoint, or slaughtered with knives,” a statement said.
There were concerns that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces “will re-enter the village in the coming hours, as Khirbet Suda remains under a crippling blockade,” the statement added.
It said reports from the area were scarce because of a “massive blackout.”
“We are especially concerned about isolated villages, surrounded by villages loyal to Assad,” the statement said.
The Coalition urged international rights groups to act to prevent what it called further massacres.
AFP - 05/17/2013
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has now documented the deaths of at least 145 people in a “sectarian massacre” earlier in May in the coastal city of Banias, the watchdog said Thursday.
The number of identified victims, among them children and babies, has risen in the past two weeks because “dozens were missing, their bodies buried in their burnt-down homes, or under the rubble of their houses,” said the Britain-based group.
Some victims were “buried in secret, while the security forces were present”, it said.
The watchdog said the May 3 mass killings in Banias amounted to a “sectarian massacre”.
Fighters who entered the Ras al-Nabaa neighborhood of Banias included regular troops as well as militiamen loyal to the paramilitary National Defense Force, it said.
“Many houses were destroyed,” said the Observatory, which relies on a broad network of activists, doctors and lawyers for its reports.
“Among those killed were 34 children aged under 16, including babies, and 40 women,” it said.
Just a day before the slaughter, at least 51 people were killed in the Sunni village of Bayda, south of the Banias.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman echoed statements by Syrian activists and said the killings were motivated by sectarianism.
The majority of Syria’s population is Sunni Muslim, while President Bashar al-Assad belongs to the minority Alawite clan.
Many of the country’s Alawites live on the coast.
Activists say the regime has taken a particularly harsh position on any signs of anti-regime sentiment along the coastline.
“Because it is motivated by sectarianism, this was one of the most savage massacres committed by the Syrian security forces and the pro-regime armed militias since the start of the [anti-Assad] revolt,” said the Observatory.
“The Observatory calls for the regime’s crimes to be referred to the International Criminal Court,” said the group.
The statement comes a day after at least 112 people were killed in violence across Syria, the Observatory said.
More than 94,000 people have been killed in the country’s conflict, which erupted in March 2011 when the regime unleashed a brutal crackdown against what started out as a peaceful uprising.
AFP - 05/16/2013
The UN General Assembly on Wednesday condemned the Syrian government’s “escalation” of the country’s war and backed the role of the opposition coalition in transition talks.
But Russia, Syria’s key diplomatic ally, fiercely opposed the resolution, branding it a potential obstacle to peace negotiations expected to be held in Geneva next month.
And only 107 countries in the 193-member assembly backed the text, down from 133 when the last Syria vote was held in August.
The United States, Britain and France joined Arab countries in supporting the resolution which expressed “outrage at the rapidly increasing death toll,” now estimated at more than 80,000 by Syrian activists.
Russia, China, Syria, Iran and North Korea were among 12 countries to oppose the resolution. Fifty-nine countries, including Brazil, South Africa, India and Indonesia abstained.
The assembly “strongly condemns the continued escalation in the use by the Syrian authorities of heavy weapons”, including “ballistic missiles” against civilians, said the resolution, which was drawn up by Qatar and other Arab states.
On political efforts to end the war, the assembly demanded all sides work to “implement rapidly” a communique agreed by the major powers in Geneva in June last year laying out the steps toward a transitional government.
The resolution welcomed the opposition Syrian National Coalition “as effective representative interlocutors needed for a transition.” This phrase infuriated Russia which said it would encourage the opposition to step up “armed actions” against the Syrian government.
The Arab League has recognized the coalition as Syria’s legitimate government. There was no recognition in the UN text but Arab states are said to be planning moves to get the coalition into Syria’s UN seat later this year.
Russia and the United States agreed to press for a new international conference on the war which is expected to be held in Geneva next month. Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin wrote to all 193 UN members ahead of the vote to slam the resolution as “one-sided and biased”.
Russia and China have vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions, proposed by western nations, aiming to step up pressure on President Bashar al-Assad over the conflict.
And Western nations strongly backed the new assembly resolution.
“The consequences of this crisis are growing more dire not only within Syria, but across the region,” said deputy US ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo, who added that backing the resolution was in line with efforts to set up a peace conference.
France’s UN ambassador Gerard Araud said the resolution would help the opposition to unite for any peace conference.
“This is a substantive draft that reflects the horrific situation on the ground and pushes for a political solution,” said Germany’s UN ambassador Peter Wittig.
Qatar’s UN ambassador Meshal Hamad Al-Thani called the resolution “fair and balanced” but the text was slammed by Syria’s UN ambassador Bashar Jaafari as an attempt “to escalate the crisis and fuel violence in Syria.”
The UN assembly passed a resolution condemning Syria in August last year with 133 countries in favour, 12 votes against and 31 abstentions.
Diplomats said the lower number voting in favor this time reflected the international divisions over Syria and doubts about how it can be ended.
The resolution called for “urgent” international financing to help countries struggling with more than 1.4 million Syrian refugees. Jordan in particular has said the refugees are now a threat to its stability.
AFP - 05/15/2013
The Revolting Syrian-يلا إرحل يا بشار: Does This Not Outrage You? -
Much has been said over the past two days in the world press about a sick video showing an FSA commander tearing the heart out of a dead Hezbullah fighter (sent to murder Syrians) in Qusayr, Homs and then eating it.
The video is vile. The act is vicious. The cannibalism is inexcusable.
More than 94,000 people have been killed in more than two years of conflict in Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a newly-revised toll on Tuesday.
The watchdog group said it revised the toll — just two days after it announced a tally of 82,257 dead — after receiving new information from regime-controlled Alawite areas of the Sunni-majority country.
“Based on this information, the number of martyrs and dead killed since the beginning of the Syrian revolution is more than 94,000,” it said in a statement.
The group said it had received new figures from areas including Tartus and Latakia — strongholds on the Mediterranean coast of the Alawite minority to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs.
The information showed “that the number of casualties among the ranks of the Alawite community was much higher than the Observatory’s statistics which were published two days ago.”
On Sunday, the Britain-based watchdog which relies on a vast network of activists and medics on the ground put the death toll since the March 2011 start of the anti-regime uprising at 82,257, including 34,473 civilians.
AFP - 05/14/2013
Art, #Syria: Red line, Red blood by ‘promise2smile4ever’
05/13/2013 - #Syria - Homs, Al-Qarabess Street by Lens Young Homsi