BEIRUT // Syria's civil war is unleashing a "staggering humanitarian disaster", sending hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries, many of them citing fear of rape, an aid agency said yesterday.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) said Syrian refugees interviewed in Lebanon and Jordan gave sexual violence as a primary reason for their flight, saying that gang rapes often occur in front of family members.
"After decades of working in war and disaster zones, the IRC knows that women and girls suffer physical and sexual violence in every conflict. Syria is no exception," the IRC said in a 23-page report entitled Syria: a regional crisis.
"Many women and girls relayed accounts of being attacked in public or in their homes, primarily by armed men," it added, without identifying those responsible.
Both rebels and government forces have been accused of rights abuses during the 22-month-old conflict.
The IRC said it was also told of attacks in which women and girls were kidnapped, raped, tortured and killed.
The onslaught continued against rebellious suburbs of Damascus as attacks by government forces killed 45 people, including eight children, activists said yesterday.
Sunday's death toll was part of an intensifying regime offensive to dislodge rebels from strategic areas around the capital.