ZAATARI, Jordan — Her eyes welling up with tears, actress Angelina Jolie said she heard "horrific" and "heartbreaking" accounts from Syrian refugees she met Tuesday during a visit to a camp in Jordan that has provided shelter for those fleeing the civil war in the neighboring country.

The Hollywood star, who is also the U.N. refugee agency's special envoy, spoke after meeting a group of women refugees at the Zaatari camp, which hosts about 30,000 Syrians displaced by the 18-month conflict.

"I am very concerned, the world is very concerned," Jolie said during a high-profile visit U.N. refugee agency's special envoy aimed at focusing international attention on the plight of Syrian refugees and attracting more funding to help them. "What is very heartbreaking is when Syrian people ask you why you think no one is able to find a solution for them."

Jolie met separately with the Syrian refugee women as U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh toured the sprawling tent city. She also went to the border late Monday and met with Syrian refugees as they crossed into Jordan.

"What they described on the ground, hearing it from them is so horrific," she said, adding that the children's stories were especially moving, including some who said they had witnessed people being pulled apart "like chickens."

"When you meet so many innocent people and civilians, the people of Syria are asking who is on their side. `Who is going to help us as the months go on?" she added.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the chaos as an uprising against President Bashar Assad has become increasingly violent, with activists saying at least 23,000 people have died since the conflict began in March 2011.

According to Guterres, Jordan alone has taken in some 200,000 Syrians – the largest number in the region. Both the U.N. refugee agency and Jordan said the figure reflects actual numbers of Syrians housed in the kingdom as opposed to a smaller figure of those Syrian refugees who have registered with the UNHCR or who are awaiting registration.

"This mission that we are sharing has a key objective. It is to draw attention to the international community to express a much more stronger solidarity with Syrian refugees and the host countries that have kept their borders open to all those fleeing the conflict," Guterres said.

The refugee chief acknowledged the sheer numbers are taking a toll on Jordan's economy and resources, stressing that the "camp needs massive international funding" and that its conditions were "still not acceptable."

UNHCR says it has so far only received a little over $9 million in aid for a regional appeal it has made for the Syrian refugees.

Despite hardships faced by Zaatari residents, including insufficient supplies of electricity and water, persistent dust and delayed schooling at the camp, Jolie said at least the refugees have found some measure of safety.

"I'm grateful to Jordan and all the border countries for keeping their borders open, for saving these people's lives," she told reporters gathered under a Bedouin tent. "They are dying in Syria. If they were unable escape with their families, many of the people here, many of people I met today would in fact be dead. It's an extraordinary thing that they are doing."

Jolie, who has six children with Brad Pitt, also expressed concern for the alarming numbers of children who are reported dead, wounded or unaccompanied after their parents were killed.

"It's impossible to imagine any mother standing by and not stepping up and doing something to prevent this," she said. "We encourage the international community to support the people here until one day they go back home."

The UNHCR in April promoted Jolie from serving as its goodwill ambassador to special envoy due to her exceptional work for the agency.

Jordan opened the Zaatari facility for Syrians in July after long delaying a decision on whether to set up refugee camps, possibly to avoid Assad's autocratic regime by showing images at his doorstep of civilians fleeing his military onslaught.

Jolie was also to visit Syrian refugees and meet authorities in Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq during the rest of her trip to the region.

In Geneva, the UNHCR said Tuesday that while the agency has 253,106 people registered or awaiting registration as Syrian refugees, the real number is likely far higher since tens of thousands are believed to have not yet registered. Some are getting help from family or friends, while some are afraid to register for fear of possible consequences from Assad's regime. Agency spokesman Adrian Edwards said that figure includes 85,197 in Jordan, 78,431 in Turkey, 66,915 in Lebanon and 22,563 in Iraq as of this week.

Diplomatic efforts have so far failed to stop the bloodshed in Syria, but the new U.N.-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi plans to travel to Syria this week in a bid to revive them. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Brahimi will sit down with President Bashar Assad during an upcoming visit, although the date has not been announced.

"First and foremost, the violence must stop by both sides, regardless of their political grievances or problems may be. That is not acceptable," Bah said at a news conference in the Swiss capital of Bern.


Associated Press Writer John Heilprin in Geneva contributed to this report.

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  • March 2011

    Protests erupt in the Southern city of Daraa after 15 young boys were arrested for spraying anti-government slogans on a city wall.

  • April 19, 2011

    In an attempt to ease the protests, the Syrian government passes a bill that lifts Syria's 48-year emergency rule. <br> <em>In this citizen journalism image made on a mobile phone and acquired by the AP, taken Monday April 18, 2011, Syrians pray in Clock Square in the center of the city of Homs, Syria. (AP)</em>

  • April 22, 2011

    Security forces and gunmen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad kill at least 100 protesters, rights group said. <br> <em>Syrian anti-government protesters gesture as they demonstrate following Friday prayers in the central city of Homs, Syria, Friday, April 22, 2011. (AP)</em>

  • May 23, 2011

    The European Union imposed sanctions on president Bashar Assad and nine other senior government officials.<br> <em>Syrian President Bashar Assad, seen, during a meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, unseen, at the presidency in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009. (AP)</em>

  • November 12, 2011

    The Arab League suspends Syria.<br> <em>General view of the Arab League emergency session on Syria at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Nov.12, 2011. (AP)</em>

  • December 7, 2011

    Assad denies ordering his troops to kill peaceful demonstrators, telling U.S. television channel ABC that only a "crazy" leader kills his own people.<br> <em>In this image from amateur video made available by the Ugarit News group on Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2011, the coffins of three protesters are carried during a march in Homs, Syria. (AP)</em>

  • December 27, 2011

    Arab League monitors said they saw "nothing frightening" during an initial visit to Homs, as 20,000 people held protests there. The monitor mission was part of an Arab League peace plan negotiated between the organization and the Assad regime to end the bloodshed in the country.<br> <em>In this image made from amateur video released by Shaam News Network and dated Wednesday Dec. 28, 2011, purports to show Arab League monitors visiting the Baba Amr area of Homs in Syria. (AP)</em>

  • January 28, 2012

    The Arab League suspends its monitoring mission while violence becomes increasingly gruesome.<br> <em>This citizen journalism image provided by the Local Coordination Committees in Syria and released on Friday Jan. 27, 2012, purports to show the bodies of five Syrian children wrapped in plastic bags, with signs in Arabic identifying them by name. (AP)</em>

  • January 31, 2012

    Government forces reasserted control over parts of Damascus as Syrian rebels withdrew, after three days of fighting that activists say killed at least 100 people.<br> <em>Syrian rebels hold their RPG and their guns as they stand on alert during a battle with the Syrian government forces, at Rastan area in Homs province, central Syria, on Tuesday Jan. 31, 2012. (AP)</em>

  • February 4, 2012

    Russia and China vetoed a resolution from the U.N. Security Council calling for Assad to step down.<br> <em>An anti-Syrian regime protester holds up a placard against Russia as others chant slogans during a midnight demonstration against Syrian President Bashar Assad, in the suburb of Kedssaya, in Damascus, Syria, on Saturday Feb. 4, 2012. (AP)</em>

  • February 16, 2012

    The U.N. General Assembly approved a resolution endorsing the Arab League plan calling for Assad to step aside.<br> <em>In this citizen journalism image provide by the Local Coordination Committees in Syria, anti-Syrian regime protesters hold an Arabic banner which reads "Homs is the city of the orphan Syrian revolution," as they march during a demonstration against Syrian President Bashar Assad, at Dael village in Daraa province, south Syria, on Friday, Feb. 17, 2012. (AP)</em>

  • February 22, 2012

    More than 80 people were killed in Homs including two foreign journalists, Marie Colvin and Remi Ochlik. Syrian security forces shelled Homs for nearly a month in an attempt to drive Syrian Free Army fighters out. Activists say hundreds of people have died in the siege. <br> <em>This is an undated image of journalist Marie Colvin, made available Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 by the Sunday Times in London. (AP)</em>

  • February 23, 2012

    Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was appointed U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria. <br>

  • February 27, 2012

    Opposition fighters leave the besieged neighborhood of Baba Amr in Homs. Government troops vow to 'cleanse' the neighborhood. <i>In this Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012 citizen journalism image provided by the Local Coordination Committees in Syria and accessed on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, black smoke rises into the air from Syrian government shelling, at Baba Amr neighborhood in Homs province, Syria. (AP Photo/Local Coordination Committees in Syria)</i>

  • February 28, 2012

    According to Assad, 90 percent of voters endorsed a new constitution in a referendum on February 26. The declaration was widely dismissed as a sham.<br>

  • March 8, 2012

    Syria's deputy oil minister announces his defection in a YouTube video.

  • March 14, 2012

    The Guardian obtains thousands of emails that appear to have been sent and received by Syrian president Bashar Assad and his wife Asma. <i>In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad casts his ballot next to his wife Asma at a polling station during a referendum on the new constitution, in Damascus, Syria, on Sunday Feb. 26, 2012. (AP Photo/SANA)</i>

  • March 15, 2012

    The U.N. estimates 8,000 people have been killed in the conflict. <i>In this March 9, 2012 citizen journalism image provided by the Homs City Union of The Syrian Revolution, smoke rise from a building that was shelled by the Syrian army, at Jeb al-Jandali neighborhood in Homs province, central Syria. (AP Photo/Homs City Union of The Syrian Revolution)</i>

  • March 25, 2012

    The UN raises the estimated death toll in Syria's conflict to 9,000. <i> This image made from amateur video and released by Shaam News Network Saturday, March 24, 2012, purports to show smoke rising after rockets fell in the Khaldiyeh area of Homs, Syria. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video) </i>

  • March 27, 2012

    Syria accepts a six-point peace plan offered by U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

  • April 9, 2012

    Syrian forces fire into a refugee camp across the Turkish border. <i>In this Monday, April 9, 2012 photo, Syrian refugees are seen in camp in Reyhanli, Turkey. (AP Photo/Germano Assad) </i>

  • April 12, 2012

    A U.N.-brokered ceasefire takes hold. Regime forces stop assaults, but fail to retreat from city centers. <i>Pro-Syrian government demonstrators hold a rally at Sabe Bahrat Square to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the foundation of the Ruling Baath Arab Socialist Party in Damascus, Syria, Saturday, April 7, 2012. (AP Photo Bassem Tellawi) </i>

  • April 14, 2012

    The U.N. Security Council approves a resolution to send observers to Syria to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire.

  • April 21, 2012

    The UN sends 300 observers to Syria for three months to monitor the "ceasefire." <em>In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a UN observer and Syrian army officer, left, listen to Syrian citizens during their visit to the pro-Syrian regime neighborhoods, in Homs province, central Syria, on Monday April 23, 2012. (AP Photo/SANA)</em>

  • April 25, 2012

    A rocket attack on the city Hama kills 69, including some children. <em>In this image made from amateur video released by the Ugarit News and accessed Wednesday, April 25, 2012, purports to show Syrians standing in rubble of damaged buildings from Syrian forces shelling in Hama, Syria. (AP Photo/Ugarit News via AP video) </em>

  • April 27, 2012

    An explosion in the Midan neighborhood of Damascus, Syria kills 11 and injures 28. <em>Syrian investigators, right, gather next to a damaged police bus that was attacked by an explosion in the Midan neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, on Friday April 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)</em>

  • May 7, 2012

    Parliamentary elections are held. While the regime sees the elections as an indication of its willingness to concede to democratic reforms, the opposition dismisses the elections as a sham. <em>In this photo taken during a government-organized tour, Syrian campaign workers wait outside a polling station during the parliamentary elections, in Damascus, Syria, Monday, May 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Muzaffar Salman)</em>

  • May 10, 2012

    Two explosions near a military intelligence complex in Damascus killed 55. <em>Syrian inspectors investigate the crater in front of a damaged military intelligence building where two bombs exploded, at Qazaz neighborhood in Damascus, Syria, on Thursday May 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)</em>

  • May 25, 2012

    A massacre occurs in the village of Houla, where 108 people were killed. Activists blamed the regime for the massacre, although the Syrian government denies all responsibility. <em>This frame grab made from an amateur video provided by Syrian activists on Monday, May 28, 2012, purports to show the massacre in Houla on May 25 that killed more than 100 people, many of them children. (AP Photo/Amateur Video via AP video)</em>

  • More explosions in Hama kill scores more. <em>In this citizen journalism image provided by Sham News Network SNN and according to them, purports to show the bodies of Syrian children in Mazraat al-Qubair on the outskirts of Hama, central Syria, Thursday, June 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)</em>

  • June 12, 2012

    The head of the UN peacekeeping operations, Herve Ladsous, calls the Syria crisis a "civil war." <em>A Nepalese human rights activist holds a placard against the human rights violation in Syria as they take part in a protest organized by the Amnesty International outside the United Nations office in Katmandu, Nepal, Wednesday, June 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)</em>

  • June 22, 2012

    Syria shoots down Turkish warplane, for which Syrian President Bashar Assad expressed regret. <em>In this April 29, 2010 file photo, a Turkish pilot salutes before take-off at an air base in Konya, Turkey. (AP Photo/File)</em>

  • June 26, 2012

    Assad announces that his country is in a state of war. <em>In this image taken from TV Syria's president Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview in Tehran, Iran, Thursday June 28, 2012. (AP Photo/IRIB TV via APTN) </em>

  • July 6, 2012

    General Manaf Tlas, son of Mustafa Tlas and a member of Assad's inner circle, defects and flees to France. <em>In this Feb. 22, 1971 file photo, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mustafa Tlas (front row, 2nd from right) and Air Force General Naji Jamil (1st right) surrounded by other members of Parliament on election day in Damascus, Syria. (AP Photo, File)</em>

  • July 11, 2012

    Nawaf al-Fares, Assad's ambassador to Iraq, defects and joins the Syrian opposition. <em>In this Sept. 16, 2008 file photo provided by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Nawaf Fares, left, is sworn in as Syria's ambassador to Iraq before Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in Damascus. (AP Photo/SANA, File)</em>

  • July 12, 2012

    Up to 200 people, most of them civilians, are killed in the village of Tremseh. The massacre is condemned by the international community. <em>In this citizen journalism image provided by Shaam News Network SNN, taken on Saturday, July 14, 2012, a woman holds a child in front of their destroyed home in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (9 miles) northwest of the central city of Hama. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)</em>

  • July 18, 2012

    Former Defense Minister Hassan Turkmani, Syrian Defense Minister Gen. Dawoud Rajha, and Bashar Assad's brother-in-law Major General Assef Shawkat are killed in a bomb attack on Damascus. <em>This undated combo image made of 3 photos released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows former defense minister Hassan Turkmani, left, Syrian Defense Minister Gen. Dawoud Rajha, center, and Bashar Assad's brother-in-law Major General Assef Shawkat, right, in Damascus, Syria. (AP Photo/SANA)</em>

  • July 12, 2012

    Activists say more than a hundred people were killed in the village of Tremseh, near the city of Hama. <em>In this citizen journalism image provided by Shaam News Network SNN, taken on Saturday, July 14, 2012, a woman holds a child in front of their destroyed home in Tremseh, Syria about 15 kilometers (9 miles) northwest of the central city of Hama. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network, SNN)</em>

  • August 6, 2012

    Syria's prime minister Riyad Hijab defects and flees to Jordan. <em>Riad Hijab, Syria┬'s defected former prime minister, speaks at a press conference at the Hyatt Hotel in Amman, Jordan, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2012. (AP photo/Mohammad Hannon)</em>