Daily Israel Report

UN: More Than 230,000 Syrian Refugees

The top UN official for refugees says hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been displaced since violence erupted in the country a year ago.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 3/14/2012, 9:10 PM

Syrian Refugees in Lebanon
Syrian Refugees in Lebanon
Reuters

The United Nations said Wednesday that more than 230,000 Syrians have fled their homes during the bloody year-long crackdown on a popular uprising.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees' coordinator for Syria says 30,000 people have already fled to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

"On a daily basis hundreds of people are still crossing into neighboring countries," Panos Moumtzis told reporters in Geneva.

He added that the Syrian Arab Red Crescent reported at least 200,000 of the people who have fled their homes are within the country itself.

Moumtzis also said 110,000 mostly Iraqi refugees in Syria are also reporting increased hardship due to rising prices for basic goods.

Meanwhile, Kofi Annan confirmed Wednesday that he received a response from the Syrian regime to his "concrete” proposals to Damascus on ways to halt the crisis.

“The Joint Special Envoy (JSE) for Syria Kofi Annan has now received a response from the Syrian authorities. The JSE has questions and is seeking answers,” reported Annan's spokesman in a statement.
“But given the grave and tragic situation on the ground, everyone must realize that time is of the essence. As he said in the region, this crisis cannot be allowed to drag on,” he added.
Annan presented Syrian President Bashar al- Assad with a five-point plan to end the fighting at talks on Saturday and Sunday. A Middle Eastern diplomatic source said the Syrians had asked for more details.
“The Syrians are dealing seriously with Annan. There is not a ‘no’, but they are discussing some of the points they are not convinced about ... The reply that Annan (got) will need a week to understand,” he added.

Annan's correspondence with Damascus occurs amid reports of systemic repression including rape, torture, and summary executions by forces loyal to Syrian Assad.

On Sunday, the bodies of 26 women and 21 children were found with their throats slit and bodies stabbed in Homs, where Syrian forces are carrying out "mop up operations" following a 26 straight days of murderous shelling.

The following day dozens were murdered by Syrian troops near a mosque in the city of Idlib. Initial reports that 55 had been killed were revised downward to "at least 45."

"When people came from the neighborhood early this morning, the security forces also started firing at them. In total, about 45 people were massacred," a rights activist, who only gave the first name Mohammad for fear of reprisals, told AFP.

Video footage showed the bloodied bodies of several unidentified men strewn on the floor of the mosque. An unseen voice said it was impossible to move them due to heavy shelling.

Activists also said the bodies of six other people were found in the nearby village of Maarat Shureen.

Meanwhile, Rebel fighters with the Syrian Free Army killed at least 10 government troops in an ambush in the same area, while rebels near Daraa in the south are reported to have killed 12 government troops.

Fighting was also reported in the eastern city of Deir Al Zor, and in Syria's third largest city Homs, which has been a flashpoint for unrest since the popular uprising against Assad's rule began.

UN Human Rights officials say "at least 7,500" civilians have been killed in Assad's brutal crackdown, but admit the number is probably "far higher."

Unconfirmed reports from human rights activists in Syria - which are difficult to confirm - say the number of civilians killed by Assad's forces now exceeds 9,000.

The escalating brutality and reports of war crimes emanating from Syria comes as the United Nations remains deadlocked over how to deal with the violence shaking the country.

Russia, which has billions of dollars in oil and arms deals with Syria at stake, has repeatedly blocked attempts to censure Assad, levy sanctions, or intervene in the conflict.

It has also refused to halt sales of arms, such as fighter aircraft and heavy weapons, to Syria in the face of strong objections from Western nations.