National Security Brief: U.N. Officials Outline Dire Humanitarian Crises In Syria


(Credit: BBC)

(Credit: BBC)

Top United Nations officials reported on Tuesday that around 5,000 people are dying per month as a result of the conflict in Syria and 6,000 are fleeing the country per day, in what has become the worst refugee crisis since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

“The extremely high rate of killings nowadays — approximately 5,000 a month — demonstrates the drastic deterioration of the conflict,” U.N. assistant secretary general for human rights Ivan Simonovic said. Between March 2011 and the end of April 2013, Simonovic said, at least 92,901 people were killed in Syria of which more than 6,500 were children.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres added: “We have not seen a refugee outflow escalate at such a frightening rate since the Rwandan genocide almost 20 years ago.” According to Reuters, Guterres added that two-thirds of the nearly 1.8 million refugees registered with the United Nations in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and elsewhere had left Syria since the beginning of the year. Jordan has particularly been hit hard by the refugee crisis, “which by the end of the year may host as many as a million refugees.”

The U.N. humanitarian aid chief Valerie Amos said the world was “not only watching the destruction of a country but also of its people“:

“The security, economic, political, social, development and humanitarian consequences of this crisis are extremely grave and its human impact immeasurable in terms of the long term trauma and emotional impact on this and future generations of Syrians,” Amos told the council.

She said 6.8 million Syrians need urgent humanitarian assistance, including more than 4.2 million internally displaced, and that almost half of those needing help were children. The latest assessment by the World Food Programme was that 4 million people can no longer meet their basic food needs.

Meanwhile, as the United States grapples with how to send weapons to vetted Syrian rebels, the U.K. is reportedly stepping back from its strong advocacy for arming opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The New York Times notes that “British newspaper reports say Prime Minister David Cameron has retreated from the idea altogether.”

On Monday, the TImes notes, the conservative British newspaper The Daily Telegraph reported that senior British military figures had “warned the prime minister that with the momentum on the side of President Assad’s regime sending small arms and missiles is unlikely to make a difference.”

In other news:

  • The Washington Post reports: A federal judge on Tuesday rejected the request of three Guantanamo Bay detainees on hunger strike to block the U.S. military’s practice of force-feeding. U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer said federal courts are prohibited from ruling on detainee treatment and conditions of confinement at the detention center in Cuba.
  • The Post also reports: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday that he has ordered a 20 percent cut in the number of top brass and senior civilians at the Pentagon by 2019, the latest attempt to shrink the military bureaucracy after years of heady growth.
  • The AP reports: Ramadan this year is shaping up to be the deadliest in Iraq since a bloody insurgency and rampant sectarian killings pushed the country to the edge of civil war in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.
  • The New York Times reports: Antiterrorism police units in Istanbul on Tuesday raided dozens of residences, including several college dormitories, in a crackdown on those who participated in widespread antigovernment demonstrations in June, detaining at least 30 people, the semiofficial Anatolia news agency said.
  • Politico reports: The Obama Administration and the U.S. military are asking a federal judge to put a hold on his order blocking groin searches of Guantanamo Bay prisoners in connection with attorney visits.
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