BEIRUT — The number of Syrians who have fled their war-ravaged country and are seeking assistance has now topped the 1 million mark, the U.N. refugee agency said Wednesday, warning that Syria is heading toward a “full-scale disaster.”
The announcement came as government troops and rebels fought street battles in Syria’s strategic northern city of Raqqa, and regime forces dispatched reinforcements in an attempt to push out opposition gunmen who now control most of the city, activists said.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said in a statement released in Geneva that the 1 million figure is based on reports from his agency’s field offices in countries neighboring Syria that have provided safe haven for refugees escaping the civil war.
“With a million people in flight, millions more displaced internally, and thousands of people continuing to cross the border every day, Syria is spiraling towards full-scale disaster,” Guterres said.
Syria’s uprising began in March 2011 with protests against President Bashar Assad’s authoritarian rule. When the government cracked down on demonstrators, the opposition took up arms and the conflict turned into a full-blown civil war. The United Nations estimates that more than 70,000 people have been killed.