National Security Brief: U.N. Says More Than 1.5 Million Have Fled Syria

The United Nations’ refugee agency said on Friday that the number of Syrians fleeing the civil war in their country is now more than 1.5 million.

“The fact that more than 1.5 million have registered or have appointments with UNHCR sadly means the actual number is much higher,” the agency said in a statement.

“Refugees tell us the increased fighting and changing of control of towns and villages, in particular in conflict areas, results in more and more civilians deciding to leave. Over the past four months we have seen a rapid deterioration when compared to the previous 20 months of this conflict,” UNHCR spokesman Dan McNorton said at a press conference.

Reuters notes that “[m]ost of the refugees have fled to neighboring Lebanon and Jordan where UNHCR said it had counted 470,457 and 473,587 respectively this week.”

The president of the U.N. General Assembly said on Wednesday that at least 80,000 have died so far in Syria’s two-year long civil war, 20,000 more since January.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that the “Syrian opposition is demanding access to arms before planned peace talks next month, amid a growing consensus that it may take a shift in the balance of power on the battlefield before any meaningful negotiations can take place.”

In other news:

  • USA Today reports: The Pentagon has cyberattack capabilities that allow the U.S. military to help blind Syrian air defenses without firing a shot, according to military analysts.
  • The Los Angeles Times reports: Disclosure of a highly classified intelligence operation in Yemen last year compromised an exceedingly rare and valuable espionage achievement: an informant who had earned the trust of hardened terrorists, according to U.S. officials.
  • Reuters reports: U.S. military instructors in Niger will train African forces participating in a U.N.-backed offensive against al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants in neighboring Mali, senior military officers said on Thursday.