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UNHCR Says Syria Exodus Tops 200,000

Syrians cross a checkpoint outside the northwestern Syrian city of Afrin, on the Syria-Turkey border, on August 23.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says more than 200,000 Syrians have now fled to neighboring countries to escape the country's civil war.

UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said a flood of refugees during August has pushed the number of refugees well above the 185,000 people the relief agency had estimated would flee Syria by the end of the year.

"There has been a dramatic increase in the number of [Syrian] refugees in the region during August," Edwards said. "We're now at over 200,000 refugees in the region -- that's over and above our planning figure for all 2012 of 185,000 refugees in the region. So, clearly, we are going to have to revisit the planning."

Edwards said some 30,000 people have fled Syria for neighboring countries during the past week alone.

During the past 24 hours, more than 3,500 fled to Turkey and a record 2,200 entered Jordan on August 23.

With more than 74,000 already registered, Turkey has seen the largest influx of refugees since the crisis in Syria erupted 18 months ago.

Turkish officials say seven new refugee camps are being built to nearly double capacity.

The Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said this week that Turkey could not take in more than 100,000 refugees and suggested the United Nations may instead need to create a "safe zone" for camps inside Syria.

The UNHCR spokesman said Turkey is expected to raise the issue of a "safe zone" at a UN Security Council meeting on August 30. That meeting also is to be addressed by UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres.

UN officials also estimate there are at least 1.2 million internally displaced people in Syria and that 2.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Syrian activists say some 25,000 people have died since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime erupted in March 2011.

Meanwhile, the bloodshed continues in Syria on August 24.

Activists said at least 21 people were killed by shelling in Daraya, a Sunni Muslim town near Damascus, as government troops sought to reestablish control on outlying suburbs of the capital. Intense fighting also was reported in the northern city of Aleppo and in the town of Daraa near the border with Jordan.

The violence also has spilled over into neighboring Lebanon, where the UNHCR has registered 51,000 Syrian refugees.

At least 12 people have been reported killed in clashes linked to Syrian conflict in the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli over the past five days.

The clashes between supporters of the mostly Sunni rebels and supporters of Syria's Alawite-led regime came despite the deployment of additional Lebanese troops in Tripoli.

Based on reporting by Reuters and RFE/RL