Syrian refugees
Syrian refugeesReuters

The number of Syrian refuges forced to flee the conflict-ravaged country has topped 850,000, the UN refugee agency said Tuesday.

"As of the 17th of February, we have over 850,000 Syrian refugees who are awaiting registration or have been registered," agency spokesman Babar Baluch told reporters in Geneva, according to AFP.

Only a year ago, the United Nations said 33,000 Syrians had fled as a result of the conflict that erupted in March 2011 as the regime of President Bashar al-Assad launched a bloody crackdown on protests.

The United Nations has warned that refugee numbers could reach 1.1 million within months, in what has become an increasingly radicalized civil war in the nation of almost 21 million.

Most of the anti-Assad rebels are Sunni Muslims, while the ruling clan and many of its most fervent supporters are from the Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Most of the refugees have fled to neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.

The United Nations says at least 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict, while some 2.5 million have been displaced by the fighting but remain in Syria.