UN: 1.5 Million in Syria Need Humanitarian Assistance

Posted June 22nd, 2012 at 7:05 am (UTC-5)
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The United Nations says up to 1.5 million Syrians are now in need of humanitarian assistance as it warns of a deteriorating situation in Syria and activists report fresh clashes.

The figure reported by the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is up from an earlier estimate of 1 million.

The U.N. reached a deal with Syrian authorities earlier this month to create a series of humanitarian hubs to allow the delivery of aid to the growing number of civilians who need basic goods and protection.

But the world body said it is not able to send staff to those locations because of increased violence, which continued in several rebel strongholds on Friday.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA there are renewed clashes between government troops and rebels in the flashpoint city of Homs, where hundreds of civilians are believed to be trapped and unable to find shelter.

The International Committee of the Red Cross aborted its attempt to evacuate civilians from Homs Thursday after encountering close gunfire. The ICRC said it will attempt to go back to the area as soon as conditions permit.

The Observatory also told VOA that a woman was killed and several others wounded from government shelling in the southern province of Deraa. The Britain-based group said two government troops were also killed after being ambushed by rebels in Aleppo province.

Meanwhile, Jordan has granted political asylum to a Syrian pilot, Colonel Hassan al-Hamade, who flew his Russian-made MiG-21 fighter jet into the country Thursday while on a training mission. Syria's government labeled the pilot a “deserter and a traitor” and contacted Jordanian authorities to try to retrieve the plane.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland praised the Syrian pilot's action as “extremely courageous.”