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In the spring of 2011, conflict broke out between the Syrian government and opposition groups demanding reforms. Since then, tens of thousands of Syrians have been killed or wounded, and possibly one million have been displaced inside the country. The fighting and destruction continue to spread as the government and rebels struggle for control of the country. As of August 2012, 120,000 Syrians have registered as refugees in neighboring countries, and refugees already in Syria from third countries are being displaced again in growing numbers. Government restrictions on aid agencies working inside Syria limit their ability to provide humanitarian assistance.
Current Humanitarian Situation
Best estimates suggest that up to one million Syrians are internally displaced, while up to 2.5 million inside the country may be vulnerable and in need of humanitarian assistance. The Syrian Arab Red Crescent is the country’s main aid provider, but the Syrian government has heavily restricted which organizations may provide aid to whom, and in what form. As a result, the response to those in need has been inadequate even as their numbers grow weekly.
Before the conflict began, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) supported a large population of registered Iraqi refugees in Syria, primarily in and around Damascus. This population has remained heavily dependent upon humanitarian aid because employment opportunities are few. However, UNHCR has had to cut back its capacity by almost half due to the conflict, leaving some Iraqis without protection and services. About 15,000 Iraqis have fled back to Iraq as of August 2012 and are facing sectarian conflicts back home, as well as a lack of basic services and high unemployment.
Palestinians in Syria also face a difficult choice: to live in danger, or to seek refuge in a nearby country that may not welcome them. There have been reports of Palestinians inside Syria being specifically targeted by both government forces and rebels, as well as simply being caught in the crossfire. Scores of Palestinians who left for Jordan during 2012 have been held at a transit center on the border, forbidden to enter the country and unable to return to Syria in safety.