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Syria Crisis: Massive Numbers Of Refugees Flee Fighting, U.N. Says

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SYRIA CRISIS REFUGEES
Syrian refugees walk on June 20, 2012 at the Kilis refugee camp near the Syrian border. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/GettyImages) | Getty Images


By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA, July 6 (Reuters) - Thousands of families in Syria have fled their homes in the past two weeks due to heavy fighting between government forces and rebels and many face food shortages, the United Nations said on Friday.

Food prices have tripled in parts of seven provinces where the livelihoods of farmers and livestock herders are at risk of collapse because the wheat harvest is being delayed by a shortage of diesel, needed for machinery, it said.

"The overall situation is characterised by severe insecurity and ongoing fighting which means that U.N. agencies do not have access to many areas," Jens Laerke, spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told a news briefing in Geneva.

Many of the 200,000 residents of Douma, 15 km (10 miles) north of the capital, have fled to central Damascus, OCHA said.

Activists said on Wednesday that residents in the "ghost city" recovered mutilated corpses after a rampage by militiamen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and army shelling.

About 30,000 people have fled the eastern city of Deir al-Zor and moved north towards Hassaka and Al-Raqqa, OCHA said. Civilians are also leaving Hama, Idlib and Al-Raqqa and heading towards Aleppo.

The Syrian Arab Red Crescent has previously estimated that at least 500,000 people are internally displaced in the country.

Syrian authorities and officials from the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) carried out a joint assessment of food security in seven provinces.


AID NEEDED

"Problems with access to diesel for machinery are hampering the wheat harvest and internally displaced families living in urban and peri-urban (beside urban areas) settings are facing rapidly increasing food insecurity," OCHA said. "Urgent food and agriculture and livestock assistance are required before the onset of winter."

The WFP is delivering food to all 14 provinces in Syria, through the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, and hopes its supplies will reach 850,000 people in July, it said.

Seven international agencies already helping Iraqi and Palestinian refugees in the country are now providing assistance to Syrians, OCHA said. This was part of an agreement reached between the United Nations and Syrian authorities in June.

"Some of those international NGOs have begun distributing hygiene supplies, medical assistance and other essential items to affected Syrians," Laerke said.

Syrian aid agencies will provide aid in areas where U.N. agencies cannot reach, he said.

More than 10,000 Syrian refugees have been registered in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey in the past two weeks, bringing the total registered in those countries to more than 103,000, according to OCHA.

More than 13,000 Iraqi refugees left Syria during the first half of the year, most returning to the northern Kurdish regions of Iraq, it said.

They were among an estimated 110,000 Iraqi refugees in Syria at the start of the uprising in March 2011, Adrian Edwards of the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said.

A further 10,000 are believed to have fled to Jordan and other areas in Iraq, leaving about 87,000 in Syria. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Pravin Char)

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syria car bomb Syrian policemen inspect the site of a car bomb explosion on Mazzeh highway in the capital Damascus on July 13, 2012. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/GettyImages)


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U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice tweets:

@ AmbassadorRice : #Syria regime turned artillery, tanks and helicopters on its own men & women. It unleashed knife-wielding shabiha gangs on its own children.

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Russia says international envoy Kofi Annan will visit Moscow on Monday to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria. Russia also called for an inquiry into an alleged massacre that took place in the village of Tramseh on Thursday. "We have no doubt that this wrongdoing serves the interests of those powers that are not seeking peace but persistently seek to sow the seeds of interconfessional and civilian conflict on Syrian soil," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters. Moscow did not apportion blame for the killings.

Read more on Reuters.com.

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The Associated Press obtained a video that purports to show the aftermath of an alleged massacre in the village of Tramseh, near Hama.

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How do Syria's fighters get their arms? An overview put together by Reuters explains that there are three gateways to the country -- Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq.

Syrian rebels are smuggling small arms into Syria through a network of land and sea routes involving cargo ships and trucks moving through Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, maritime intelligence and Free Syrian Army (FSA) officers say.

Western and regional powers deny any suggestion they are involved in gun running. Their interest in the sensitive border region lies rather in screening to ensure powerful weapons such as surface to air missiles do not find their way to Islamist or other militants.

Read the full report here.

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syria This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a victim wounded by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. The accounts, some of which claim more than 200 people were killed in the violence Thursday, could not be independently confirmed, but would mark the latest in a string of brutal offensives by Syrian forces attempting to crush the rebellion. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)


syria This citizen journalism image made from video provided by Shaam News Network SNN, purports to show a man mourning a victim killed by violence that, according to anti-regime activists, was carried out by government forces in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (nine miles) northwest of the central city of Hama, Thursday, July 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)


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According to the Hama Revolutionary Council, a Syrian opposition group, more than 220 people have been killed in a new alleged massacre in Taramseh. Earlier reports said more than 100 people were killed. "More than 220 people fell today in Taramseh," the Council said in a statement. "They died from bombardment by tanks and helicopters, artillery shelling and summary executions."

Fadi Sameh, an opposition activist from Taramseh, told Reuters he had left the town before the reported massacre but was in touch with residents. "It appears that Alawite militiamen from surrounding villages descended on Taramseh after its rebel defenders pulled out, and started killing the people. Whole houses have been destroyed and burned from the shelling," Sameh claimed.

Read more on Reuters.com.

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Syrian activist Rami Jarrah tweets that Syrian State TV has confirmed deaths in Tremseh. "Terrorists" is often the term used by the Syrian regime for opposition forces.

@ AlexanderPageSY : Syrian State TV: clashes between security apparatus & terrorists in #Tremseh of #Hama leaves large numbers of terrorists killed #Syria

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@ Reuters : UPDATE: DEATH TOLL IN SYRIAN FORCES' ATTACK ON VILLAGE IN SYRIA'S HAMA REGION IS MORE THAN 200, MOSTLY CIVILIANS - OPPOSITION ACTIVISTS

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@ Reuters : At least 100 killed in Syrian village: opposition activists http://t.co/FG3fJwu8

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