Huge humanitarian crisis in Syria

Snow covers a Damascus suburb hit in an air strike that killed at least 13.

DAMASCUS — The Middle East faces a “staggering” humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict in Syria, an aid agency says.

With more then 600,000 Syrians having fled the country, the International Rescue Committee is calling on the outside world to step up its response.

The US-based group describes the level of rape and sexual violence occurring in the conflict as “horrific”.

In the latest violence, at least 13 people were killed in an air strike on a Damascus suburb, activists said.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least eight children were among those killed in the strike on a rebel-held suburb of Maadamiyeh.

The SOHR said several people were trapped under the rubble.

SOHR is one of the most prominent organisations documenting and reporting incidents and casualties in the Syrian conflict. The group says its reports are impartial, though its information cannot be independently verified.

The UN estimates that more than 60,000 people have been killed in the uprising, which began in March 2011.

In addition to those who have left the country, at least two million people are thought be internally displaced within Syria.

The IRC says many refugees are citing rape as the main reason they left Syria and describes it as a major feature of the war. It is often committed in front of family members, the agency says. (BBC)

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