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UN predicts 4 million Syrians displaced in 2014 - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Syrian refugees spend time in their makeshift tents in central Ankara on October 5, 2013. (REUTERS/Umit Bektas)

Syrian refugees spend time in their makeshift tents in central Ankara on October 5, 2013. (REUTERS/Umit Bektas)

Washington, Asharq Al-Awsat—A report from the United Nations has predicted that 2 million more Syrians will become refugees in the near future, and estimated about 2.25 million will be internally displaced in 2014, says Reuters.

The news agency reported on Monday that the UN is preparing to launch new efforts to aid victims of the violence in the country, which began March 2011 and has so far led to more than 100,000 deaths.

To date, just over 2 million Syrians have registered as refugees after fleeing the war-torn country.

On September 26, officials belonging to ten UN organizations, including the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and 18 relief organizations, gathered in Amman to create a strategy for 2014.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) stated in a press release that “the most likely scenario was perceived to be continuation and escalation of the conflict with increased fragmentation, disruption of essential services and further erosion of coping mechanisms.”

OCHA further predicted that up to 8.3 million people, more than a third of Syria’s population, will be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2014, a 37 percent rise from 2013, with 6.5 million displaced, a 54 percent rise on this year’s figure.

The largest numbers of refugees were recorded in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. According to Reuters, preparations for the needs of refugees in 2014 will also include those fleeing to Europe and North Africa.

Egypt has said that it has received 300 000 Syrian refugees so far, but because of its current political turmoil this number is expected to decrease.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said that 17 countries, including 12 European countries, are currently involved in programs to resettle Syrian refugees.

Within Syria, activists say the government continued its military campaign in the village of Mitras in the rural coastal province of Tartus, on Monday. Bodies of executed civilians were discovered after government raids of the majority Turkmen area, according to activists.

Activists also accused the Syrian government of expelling many residents of the area on Sunday, saying that “elements of the regime requested on loudspeakers that families immediately evacuate the area.”

Amr Al-Jabalawi, a field correspondent for Asharq Al-Awsat, said that the “raiding of the village by the regime happened under the guise of protecting the residents, after a series of kidnappings carried out by the Shabiha [pro-government militia] from neighboring villages,” and denied that rebels from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) were present in Mitras.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) warned in recent days of the possibility of an imminent massacre, after the government forces intensified bombings and attacks on the town by Shabiha, which led to the handing over of dozens of residents and defectors to government forces.

The opposition Shaam News Network (SNN) distributed the names of a number of people allegedly killed by government forces on Monday, and also reported the discovery of a large number of dead bodies in the groves surrounding the village. Activists on social networking sites estimated the dead to number around 50.

Mitras, which has a majority Turkmen population of approximately 8000, is an anomaly in a region of Alawite-majority settlements, and has reportedly experienced sectarian tensions.

Activists say that many homes have been targeted by government artillery located around Mount Sayeh and the village of Ain Dabesh.

Elsewhere, Syrian government forces are reported to have been able to regain control of a main highway, securing a supply line linking government-held territory in the south with its troops in Aleppo, in the north.

The route was previously cut by opposition forces in late August, after weeks of fierce fighting, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

The Observatory further reported that the “battle led to the killing of dozens from the militia, as well as great losses to the regime forces.”

Meanwhile, the FSA has denied any association with the mortar strike on Sunday on the Christian neighborhood of Qassaa in the capital Damascus.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, an FSA field commander claimed that “these mortars were fired accidentally by fighters,” and denied that Syria’s armed opposition groups specifically targeted Christian areas.

The Syrian state news agency (SANA) reported on Sunday that eight residents of the district had been killed and 20 other wounded by mortar fire, accusing “terrorists” of being behind the strikes.

Qassaa lies less than a mile from Abbassid Square, connecting the Souq Bab Touma and the old neighborhoods of Damascus, and is inhabited by approximately 15,000 people, mostly Christians.

Despite not having any strategic importance for the parties in the conflict, Qassaa has experienced a series of car bombs and mortar attacks.