With winter arriving soon, some 200,000 Syrian refugee children are at “serious risk.” More than 2 million people have been displaced as the 20 month conflict drags on and the United Nations expects that some 700,000 people will register as refugees by the end of this year. While some families have been able to settle in refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, others are struggling in “makeshift conditions” without adequate shelter or clothing against the normal conditions for winter in much of the Middle East — torrential rains and sub-zero temperatures.
Support for the Syrian opposition has grown with the U.K., the European Union, Turkey, Libya and the six member nations of the Gulf Cooperation Council all officially recognizing the coalition of organizations including the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and other groups within Syria. France had been the first Western country to recognize the Syrian opposition in the previous week. The U.S. — perhaps wary of being drawn more directly into the conflict — has offered support for the Syrian opposition but has yet to recognize it.
Should the government of President Bashar al-Assad collapse, the Cairo-headquartered Syrian opposition says that, for the first six months, $60 billion in aid will be needed to reconstruct the country’s infrastructure and economy, both of which have been been battered in the months of warfare.
More than 38,000 people have been killed since March of 2011, making Syria’s uprising the bloodiest of those of the Arab Spring. Signs of how the civil war in Syria has been spreading unrest throughout the region have been more and more evident. Turkey has asked NATO — and struck a deal — for ground-to-air missiles to protect its border with Syria. Erlier this month, a Syrian mortar shell hit territory in Israel’s north and led to Israel firing back “warning shots.”
France and other European ministers have raised the possibility of lifting an arms ban to supply the rebels with weaponry including anti-aircraft missiles. But Russia, Syria’s long-time ally, has said that doing so would be in violation of international law.
As of this Monday, rebels said they had seized the headquarters of an army battalion in Damascus after four days of fighting. Fom this and other military gains, Michael Weiss writes in Foreign Policy that the insurgents are indeed gaining territory and certainly “more high-grade materiel” from Assad’s regime. It may well be only a matter of time before Assad’s regime falls — but not in time for elderly, sick and young Syrians who have fled their homes.
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