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Seven million displaced in Syrian conflict

Updated September 02, 2013


a group of Free Syrian Army fighters carry a wounded comrade to cover in the town of Harem, Syria - File Photo/AP
a group of Free Syrian Army fighters carry a wounded comrade to cover in the town of Harem, Syria - File Photo/AP

DAMASCUS: The United Nations (UN) estimates that five million Syrians have been displaced inside the country due to the ongoing civil war. Another two million have fled to neighboring countries, bringing the total up to seven million, which is nearly one-third of Syria’s population.

Before the outbreak of the conflict, Syria had a population of about 23 million people.

Tarik Kurdi, the representative of the refugee agency in Syria, said that the funding gaps for those displaced remain wide. Donor countries spend less than one-third the amount required to help.

More than 100,000 lives have been lost in Syria’s two-and-a-half-year-old conflict, including the hundreds who were recently killed by an alleged chemical weapons attack on August 21.

While the Syrian government has denied involvement, no proof has so far been submitted to back up the allegations.

In Washington, President Barack Obama was lobbying Congress to support a military strike to punish the Assad regime for its alleged chemical weapons use.

While Obama initially seemed poised to launch military action, the president recently decided to seek congressional approval before deciding on a course of action.

A vote is expected after Congress returns from summer recess on September 7.

On Capitol Hill, senior administration officials briefed lawmakers in private on Sunday to explain why the U.S. was compelled to act against Assad. Further meetings were planned from Monday to Wednesday.

The Arab League, meanwhile, stopped short of endorsing military action.

In an emergency meeting in Cairo on Sunday, it called on the United Nations and the international community to take ''deterrent'' measures under international law to stop the Syrian regime's crimes.

However, it could not agree on whether to back U.S. military strikes.

Two of Assad's most influential foreign backers, China and Russia, lined up against Washington's new attempt to make the case for a military strike.

China is "highly concerned'' about possible unilateral military action against Syria, adamant against the international community further “complicating the Syrian issue and dragging the Middle East down into further disaster,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in Beijing on Monday.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, meanwhile, dismissed U.S. information given to Moscow on the alleged chemical weapons attack as ''absolutely unconvincing.''

Lavrov added that U.S. officials told the Russian government they cannot share all the evidence because some of it is classified.

On Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that the U.S. had received new physical evidence in the form of blood and hair samples that show sarin gas was used in the August 21 attack.

He also said the U.S. must respond with its credibility on the line.

After it erupted in March 2011 as an uprising against Assad, the Syria conflict quickly transformed into a civil war.

The United Nations representative, Kurdi, said the need for aid is far greater than what the international community has provided so far.

''Whatever efforts we have exerted and whatever the U.N. has provided in humanitarian aid, it is only a drop in the sea of humanitarian needs in Syria,'' he said.

He added that the funding gap was “very, very wide”.