With no end to the Syrian civil war in sight even after raging on for nearly two years, the United Nations announced today that refugees from the conflict have now passed the half-a-million mark. In a post to its official website, the UN agency, UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees), said that since the start of the conflict last year, some 509,559 refugees have fled the war-torn country to neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and North Africa, warning that more were expected to flee.
Of course, this number is only a fraction of the reported two million internally displaced people in the country with some 40,000 people killed.
In its news alert, the UNHCR said that some 40 percent of the Syrian refugees were living in camps, with Chief spokesperson Melissa Fleming adding, "The majority live outside camps, often in rental housing, with host families, or in various types of collective centres and renovated accommodation."
By the agency’s breakdown, some 154,387 refugees were in Lebanon, 142,664 in Jordan, 136,319 in Turkey, 64,449 in Iraq and 11,740 in North Africa.
Conditions for the refugees are tightening day by day. Ms. Fleming added, “Resources are depleted and host communities and families can no longer support them."
And the number of refugees leaving the country has picked up a great deal over the past couple of months. The UN noted that since November, some 3,200 refugees had been registered on a daily basis in the region with 1,000 refugees alone crossing into Jordan over the past two days. The UN added that it is very likely that such high numbers will continue to be seen, with more refugees on their way.
Meanwhile, fighting intensified in the city of Aleppo, where it was claimed by rebel groups that on Monday the al-Nusra Front, an Islamist rebel group, had captured the Sheikh Suleiman army base near the city of Aleppo, with a video posted online showing them taking over the base.
However, concern has been expressed by Western countries as to the exact role of groups like the al-Nusra Front with US Secretary of State, designating the group as a terrorist organization, announcing that US authorities will be freezing any assets that members of the group may have in the US.
In other reports coming out from capital city Damascus, government forces continued bombing areas held by rebels with renewed fighting.