Syria’s accelerating humanitarian crisis hit a grim milestone Wednesday: The number of U.N.-registered refugees topped 1 million — half of them children — described by an aid worker as a “human river" of thousands spilling out of the war-ravaged country every day.
Nearly 4 million of Syria’s 22 million people have been driven from their homes by the civil war. Of the displaced, 2 million have sought cover in camps and makeshift shelters across Syria, 1 million have registered as refugees in neighboring Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, and several hundred thousand more fled the country but haven’t signed up with the U.N. refugee agency.
Also Wednesday, Syria’s civil war entangled the U.N. peacekeeping operation in the disputed Golan Heights between Syria and Israel for the first time, when 30 armed insurgent fighters seized a group of 20 armed peacekeepers investigating a damaged observation post and threatened to treat them as enemy prisoners if Syrian forces remained in the area.
As the war has worsened, the Golan region has been periodically disrupted by armed clashes and occasional artillery or mortar bombardments that have become a source of concern to Israel. But U.N. officials said that members of the Golan peacekeeping mission, officially known as the U.N. Disengagement Observer Force, had never before been seized by any of the combatants in the conflict.
— Bulletin wire reports