At least 120,000 people have been displaced in Syria this month because of fighting, according to UN humanitarian officials.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Monday that the people fled their homes in Aleppo, Hama and Idlib governorates between October 5 and 22.
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This is a cry for help
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that most remain in the three governorates but some have fled to camps near the Turkish border. He said most people in Aleppo moved towards villages and towns in the countryside west of the city.
Dujarric said the displaced Syrians need tents, basic household items, food, water and sanitation services.
He said the UN’s humanitarian partners are scaling up their response, and distribution of cooked and ready-to-eat food has started to those displaced in the three governorates but needs to be stepped up.
The UN report largely matches up with a similar report on Monday by the Norwegian Refugee Council, which estimated that 100,000 Syrians have been displaced in the last three weeks by the recent surge in fighting following the start of an air strike campaign by the Russian military.
The council said that this new exodus is pressuring already overcrowded and overstretched camps in the country. In a statement, the group said that the new wave of displacement is mostly from the province of Aleppo, where Syrian government and allied troops, emboldened by Russian air strikes, began a ground offensive on October 16.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group has also seized new territories in Aleppo, pushing out rival rebels and fighting with government troops. Others were displaced by the air strikes and fighting in Hama and Homs.
“This is a cry for help,” said Karl Schembri, the Refugee Council’s media adviser. He said the newly displaced are heading towards already crowded facilities along the border with Turkey.
The civil war, in its fifth year, has killed more than 250,000 people and displaced half of Syria’s prewar population of 23 million.
Russia began conducting air strikes in Syria on September 30, saying it aims to help the government defeat the ISIL group and other “terrorists.” But many of the strikes have targeted Syrian rebels in areas where the ISIL group is not present and have hit civilians.
Russia’s defence ministry on Monday said that it had hit 285 targets in Syria over the past three days.
The Syrian National Coalition, the main Western-backed opposition group, said on Monday that indiscriminate Russian aerial attacks are now the leading killer of civilians.
The new violence has also heightened the tempo of diplomacy. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met last week with his American, Saudi and Turkish counterparts in Vienna to exchange ideas over an end to the conflict in Syria. Another meeting is expected this Friday.
In a rare trip, President Bashar al-Assad himself travelled to Moscow last week, in his first visit out of the country since the war began in 2011.
On Monday, Assad met the visiting foreign minister of Oman.