x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

More than 100,000 refugees fled Syria last month

More than 100,000 Syrians sought refugee status last month in what the United Nations described as a worrying escalation in the pace of departures.

More than 100,000 Syrians sought refugee status last month in what the United Nations described as a worrying escalation in the pace of departures.

Last month's total accounts for more than 40 per cent of the 234,368 Syrian refugees who, as of the last count on September 2, had fled for surrounding countries since the uprising began, the UN refugee agency said yesterday.

"If you do the maths, it's quite an astonishing number," the agency's chief spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, said in Geneva yesterday. "And it points to a significant escalation in refugee movement and people seeking asylum."

Also yesterday, the Red Cross chief, Peter Maurer, held a 45-minute meeting with president Bashar Al Assad in Damascus.

Mr Maurer urged respect for international humanitarian law and the need to boost assistance on the ground in Syria, the ICRC spokesman Hisham Hassan said.

"President Assad assured the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross that he welcomed the humanitarian operations carried out by the committee on the ground in Syria, as long as it remains impartial and independent," Syrian state television said.

Lebanon's opposition meanwhile called for the expulsion of Syria's ambassador to Beirut, accusing him of being behind kidnappings and attacks on Syrian activists in the country.

The city of Homs, a hub of the anti-government revolt, has suffered an estimated US$9 billion (Dh33bn) in destruction, the governor of the Syrian province of the same name said yesterday.

Several districts in Aleppo were bombarded with artillery and mortar fire yesterday, as was an area near Aleppo airport, on the edge of Nayrab district in the of the city. In Salaheddin district, a rebel was killed in clashes with government forces, while a civilian was killed by sniper fire in the southern area of Sukari, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Britain-based watchdog also reported army shelling of Izaa, next to Saif Al-Dawla in the city's south-west. It also stated that fierce bombardment by troops of the Damascus suburb of Deir Al Asafir.

In the central city of Hama, regime forces stormed the Al-Fraya neighbourhood killing 12 men including an army defector, it said.

Elsewhere in central Syria, a 15-year-old rebel was killed during clashes in Old Homs.

Two rebels died in fighting in Deir Ezzor, two civilians including a child, died in the southern province of Daraa, and a man was killed in the northeastern province of Idlib at an army checkpoint, bringing yesterday's death toll to 37.