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Flood of Syrian refugees accelerates

Over 200,000 registered; UN warns of crisis

Syrian children received treatment Friday after shells from government forces hit their house in Aleppo.
Syrian children received treatment Friday after shells from government forces hit their house in Aleppo.ARIS MESSINISARIS MESSINIS/AFP/GettyImages

BEIRUT — The United ­Nations reported an alarming acceleration in refugee flow from Syria on Friday, shattering previous estimates and reinforcing fears that the Syrian conflict could create a humanitarian crisis drawing in the country’s immediate neighbors.

The new data on refugees came as antigovernment activists reported that the Syrian military pounded suspected insurgent enclaves in Homs, Deir al-Zour, and Damascus with artillery and airstrikes, and as fighting raged in Aleppo.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that more than 200,000 refugees had registered in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, with 30,000 new arrivals tallied the past week. The agency had previously anticipated a total of 185,000 registered refugees by the end of this year.


‘‘We’re already past where we were in terms of planning,’’ Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the refugee agency, said in a phone interview from its headquarters in Geneva. ‘‘We’re going to have to revise upward the planning figures.’’

Turkey is an opponent of the Assad government and has become the main destination for fleeing Syrians. With 78,000 registered refugees as of Friday, it is approaching its self-declared limit of 100,000, raising questions about what will happen when the figure is reached.

In Lebanon, which has 51,000 refugees, Syrians are also flowing in relentlessly.

Most of the refugees from Syria are Sunni, and last week, Shi’ite tribes kidnapped dozens of Syrians in retaliation for the abduction of relatives in Syria. Clashes in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city, entered their fifth day on Friday, as a Sunni leader was killed by a sniper from a neighborhood dominated by Alawites, members of the sect to which Assad belongs.

That set off heavy gunfire in the early morning hours Friday; two journalists were among the wounded.

The gun battles in Tripoli between two warring neighborhoods — one Sunni, the other Alawite — have not targeted refugees at this point. But Edwards, the refugee agency spokesman, said it had temporarily closed its Tripoli registration office because of the violence.


Inside Syria, violence flared in Daraya, a suburb of Damascus, with activists reporting that over the past two days 74 people had been killed by shelling and raids.

An activist in Damascus, reached by Skype, said Daraya seemed to have been targeted because it is considered a gathering spot for rebel commanders and is a hub for opposition resources.