U.S. journalist missing in Syria
(CNN) — The whereabouts of an American freelance journalist who has been working in Syria since May are unknown, a news agency reported.
It is among the key developments Friday in Syria’s ongoing conflict:
Report: Whereabouts of American journalist unknown
American freelance journalist Austin Tice, who has been working in Syria, has not been heard from since mid-August, the McClatchy news agency reported Friday.
Syria has restricted access by international journalists, routinely refusing to issue visas to enter the country. Many who report from inside Syria do so by slipping across the border, as was the case with Tice, according to McClatchy’s report.
A boy receives treatment for wounds he received during an airstrike by a regime forces helicopter in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo on Friday, August 24. Government forces blitzed areas in and around Syria’s largest city, activists said, as Western powers sought to tighten the the reins on embattled President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
A Free Syrian Army fighter takes aim at regime forces during clashes in Aleppo.
A young boy runs across the street during clashes between Free Syrian Army fighters and forces loyal to al-Assad.
A Syrian man reacts outside an operation room as doctors treat his grandchildren after an airstrike by regime forces.
A Syrian boy receives treatment after he was wounded by shells from a government helicopter that hit his house.
Family and friends look for the bodies of a woman and her two daughters killed by an airstrike on Sunday, August 19. See more photos from Ricardo Garcia Vilanova, who has spent a total of about five months covering different parts of Syria since 2011.
People gather around the bodies of an entire family killed by the airstrike the day before on Friday, August 17, in front of a hospital.
Two children are treated for shrapnel wounds at a hospital on Thursday, August 16.
Members of the Free Syrian Army clash with Syrian army soldiers in Aleppo’s Saif al-Dawla district on August 22.
A Syrian rebel fighter holds a handmade bomb in the Saif al-Dawla district in the center of Aleppo on August 22.
Syrian rebels run for cover during heavy fighting in the Saif al-Dawla district in the center of Aleppo on August 22.
Members of the Free Syrian Army take up positions as smoke rises in the background during clashes with Syrian army soldiers on August 22.
A member of the Free Syrian Army aims his rifle as he uses doors as a shield on August 22.
Members of the Free Syrian Army take cover during clashes with Syrian Army soldiers on August 22.
A Syrian rebel fires towards a pro-government sniper in the Said al-Dawla district of Aleppo on August 22.
Smoke rises from Aleppo’s Saif al-Dawla district after what activists say was shelling by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad on August 21.
Mourning relatives gather at the funeral of a Free Syrian Army fighter killed during heavy fighting in the Salaheddine neighborhood of central Aleppo on August 21.
Syrian rebel fighters stand around a cache of homemade missiles which they say they will use on forces loyal to president Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo on August 21.
The father of Amar Ali Amero, a Free Syrian Army fighter who was reportedly killed by a sniper in the Salaheddine neighborhood of central Aleppo, mourns during his funeral in Azaz, north of Aleppo, on August 21.
People pray during the funeral of the Free Syrian Army fighter, Amar Ali Amero on August 21.
A Member of the Free Syrian Army fires during clashes with Syrian army soldiers in Aleppo’s Saif al-Dawla district, on August 20.
A skirmish in the street of Aleppo’s Saif al-Dawla district between members of the Free Syrian Army and Syrian army soldiers on August 20.
A man cries near the graves of his two children killed during a recent Syrian Air Force air strike in Azaz on August 20.
Members of the Free Syrian Army prepare their weapons in Aleppo’s Saif al-Dawla district on Monday, August 20.
Syrian bakers work in the northern city of Aleppo on Sunday, August 19, the first day of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
In this image provided by Syria’s national news agency, SANA, President Bashar al-Assad, center, is greeted by a cleric while attending Eid al-Fitr prayers at al-Hamad mosque in Damascus on Sunday, August 19.
Members of the Free Syrian Army and residents try to extinguish a fire that they say was caused by shelling by forces loyal to al-Assad in the Damascus suburb of Saqba on Friday, August 17.
A Free Syrian Army fighter takes aim during clashes in Aleppo on Friday, August 17. For days, the northern Syrian city has been at the center of some of the worst fighting in the 18-month-old conflict.
A rebel fighter makes his way through a hole in a wall during fighting Friday in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.
A rebel climbs some stairs in a building during clashes in central Aleppo’s Salaheddine neighborhood.
A rebel fighter runs for cover as a Syrian army tank shell hits a nearby building Friday in Aleppo. The opposition accuses Syrian forces of shelling flashpoint neighborhoods in Aleppo where rebels are making a stand.
Free Syrian Army fighters dress a mannequin to look like a fighter to draw gunfire away from them Friday in Aleppo.
Free Syrian Army fighters rest Friday in Aleppo during a lull in fighting.
A fighter with the rebel Free Syrian Army secures a street Friday in the Damascus suburb of Saqba. Fighting raged unabated Friday across Syria, while diplomats struggled to find a political solution.
Members of the Free Syrian Army try to secure a street Friday in Saqba.
The Free Syrian Army takes charge of a street in Saqba.
A rebel holds a rocket-propelled grenade Friday in the Damascus suburb.
A Free Syrian Army fighter fires an anti-aircraft gun at a Syrian air force helicopter in Aleppo on Thursday, August 16.
Free Syrian Army fighters carry the body of a fellow fighter during clashes Thursday in Aleppo. Government forces are pounding Syria’s largest city in a siege that’s become the focal point of the civil war.
A grief-stricken woman clutches her dead baby while her husband’s body is covered up following a regime airstrike on Azaz, a town near Aleppo, on Wednesday, August 15.
Syrians search for people trapped under the rubble after the airstrike Wednesday in Azaz, near Aleppo.
A man removes his belongings from his destroyed car at the airstrike site.
A Free Syrian Army fighter fires an AK-47 rifle in Aleppo on Wednesday, August 15.
Syrians carry the body of a woman after an airstrike in Azaaz.
A Syrian man reacts after an airstrike in Azaaz.
Syrians flee Azaaz following the airstrike.
A Syrian youth holds the arm of someone trapped under rubble after an airstrike in the town of Azaaz, on the outskirts of Aleppo.
Black smoke billows into the air after a bomb exploded at a military site car park near a hotel used by United Nations monitors in Damascus. The explosion Wedesday wounded three people, Syrian state television said.
Firefighters work at the scene of a bomb explosion in central Damascus. The bomb was planted under a diesel tanker.
A man carries the body of a boy after a Syrian Air Force strike on Azaz, some 29 miles north of Aleppo.
A man sits in front of tombstone workshop in Aleppo.
Jordanian security guards patrol the entrance of the Zaatari refugee camp, located outside the northern Mafraq, Jordan, which borders Syria. Refugees face the hardships of sweltering heat, dust, lack of electricity and at times sexual harassment in this UN-run desert tent camp.
Jordanian security officers detain a Syrian man after he tried to escape from the Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq.
A Free Syrian Army fighter learns that his commander has been killed by a tank shell in Aleppo on Tuesday, August 14. Opposition activists say shelling in dissident strongholds has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the country.
Free Syrian Army fighters look at the body of their commander killed by a tank shell Tuesday in Aleppo.
A Free Syrian Army fighter fires his rifle in Aleppo on Tuesday.
Syrian rebels fire toward a sniper in Aleppo on Monday, August 13, as fighting continues against Syrian government forces.
A rebel fighter fires at government forces Monday in Aleppo’s Salaheddin neighborhood.
A Syrian rebel climbs a staircase in Aleppo’s Salaheddin district as the opposition battles the regime.
A man gives bags of bread to customers at a bakery run by the opposition Free Syrian Army in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.
Rebels covered in dust and debris emerge from a building hit by an army tank shell Monday in Aleppo’s Salaheddin area.
A rebel fighter gestures toward others after emerging from a shelled building during fighting Monday with government forces.
A Free Syrian Army sniper looks through the sight on his rifle from a house in Aleppo on Monday.
Rebel fighters sit behind a barricade of rocks on an Aleppo street.
Free Syrian Army fighters walk down a debris-covered street Monday in central Aleppo’s Salaheddine neighborhood.
A Free Syrian Army fighter fires an RPG as a Syrian army tank shell hits a building across a street during heavy fighting in central Aleppo on Saturday, August 11.
A Free Syrian Army fighter sits on a window sill as he holds an AK-47 rifle in central Aleppo.
A Free Syrian Army fighter aims his rifle during heavy fighting in the Salaheddine neighborhood.
A Free Syrian Army fighter fires an RPG after a Syrian army tank shell hit a building during heavy fighting in the Salaheddine neighborhood.
A Free Syrian Army fighter tries to fix his jammed rifle during heavy fighting in the Salaheddine neighborhood.
A Free Syrian Army fighter runs for cover during heavy fighting in the Salaheddine neighborhood.
Free Syrian Army fighters walk through a damaged building during heavy fighting in the Salaheddine neighborhood.
A Free Syrian Army fighter aims an RPG as he waits for Syrian army tanks in the Salaheddine neighborhood.
A Free Syrian Army fighter walks on an empty street in the Salaheddine neighborhood.
Free Syrian Army members check a confiscated cache of weapons found on a truck that was searched at a checkpoint in Dana.
A rebel fighter fires an anti-aircraft gun during a regime airstrike on Tel Rafat, a village north of Aleppo, on Thursday, August 9. The Syrian government and rebel groups have been battling for control of Aleppo, a key front in the conflict that has morphed into a civil war.
A Syrian air force fighter plane fires during an airstrike Thursday in Tel Rafat, north of Aleppo. Forces loyal to the regime have been shelling Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.
A truck burns after apparently being hit by rockets during an airstrike on Tel Rafat.
Men carry the body of a boy killed in an airstrike in the village of Tel Rafat.
A boy’s body is uncovered in the rubble of a house demolished during the recent clashes in Tel Rafat.
A man steps on a carpeted image of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Anadan, northwest of Aleppo, on Wednesday, August 8. The fighting has taken a toll on al-Assad’s regime, which has been hit by assassinations and political and military defections.
Residents sift through rubble Wednesday searching for bodies under a collapsed house destroyed in an airstrike.
Syrian refugees bathe Wednesday at Al Zaatri U.N. camp in the Mafraq, Jordan, near the border with Syria. The recent shelling has led thousands of residents to flee Syria.
Syrian refugees cook a meal at Al Zaatari camp in Mafraq, Jordan.
A Syrian rebel prepares his weapon as a group of Free Syrian Army fighters head toward the fighting with Syrian Army soldiers in the Salah ad-Din neighborhood of central Aleppo on Sunday, August 5.
Syrians evacuate a civilian wounded in shelling in the northern city of Aleppo on Saturday, August 4. Syria’s armed forces pounded Aleppo’s rebel-held Salah ad-Din district with air and ground fire as violence also raged in the Shaar and Sukkari districts, according to reporters in the area and a rebel commander.
A vehicle burns as Syrians walk through debris from clashes between Syrian armed forces and rebels in the northern city of Aleppo on Saturday, August 4.
A boy plays on the gun of a destroyed Syrian army tank partially covered in the rubble of the destroyed Azaz mosques, north of the restive city of Aleppo, on Thursday, August 2.
Smoke rises from Al-Safsaf in Homs on Friday, August 3.
A boy plays with an AK-47 rifle owned by his father in Azaz, some 29 miles north of Aleppo on Friday, August 3.
Syrians climb on an abandoned Syrian army tank north of Aleppo on Thursday, August 2.
A man looks at a destroyed Syrian army compound in Azaz, 29 miles north of Aleppo on Friday, August 3.
A Syrian refugee walks at the Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, on Friday, August 3.
People and a member of the Free Syrian Army commute on Wednesday, August 1, past a building on the outskirts of Idlib that was hit by rocket fire Tuesday night by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Unrest spread across other volatile regions of the country as al-Assad’s forces shelled targets and launched raids in and around Damascus, Homs, Daraa and Deir Ezzor.
A woman and child on Wednesday walk through rubble of a building destroyed by shelling from forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo.
Demonstrators hold an opposition flag during a protest Wednesday against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus.
Syrian girls on Wednesday walk past a Syrian army tank captured two days earlier by rebel fighters at a checkpoint in the village of Anadan. The strategic checkpoint secures the rebel fighters free movement between the northern city of Aleppo and Turkey.
Rebel Free Syrian Army fighters capture a policeman who they allege is a “Shabiha” or pro-regime militiaman, on Tuesday, July 31, as the rebels overrun a police station in Aleppo.
Rebel fighters load an anti-aircraft machine gun on an armored vehicle in Atareb, east of Syria’s second-largest city, Aleppo, on Tuesday, July 31.
Syrian boys run near a building hit by bullets and fire in Atareb.
A member of the Free Syrian Army fires at forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad in a district of Aleppo called Salah Edinne on Tuesday.
A member of the Free Syrian Army carries an injured civilian to safety in Aleppo’s district of Salah Edinne on Tuesday.
Members of the Free Syrian Army learn that a tank belonging to forces loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad is heading to the area.
A Syrian boy carries bags of bread as people wait outside a bakery near Syria’s second-largest city, Aleppo.
A photo released by Syrian Arab News Agency depicts damaged buildings in Homs on Monday, July 30.
A Free Syrian Army fighter takes position Sunday, July 29, in Aleppo as people flee shelling. Intense clashes have been under way for more than a week between the regime and rebels in Aleppo, Syria’s commercial and cultural center.
Parts of Syria’s largest city saw the fiercest clashes yet in the country’s 16-month crisis on Saturday, July 28. About 200,000 people have fled fighting in Aleppo and surrounding areas in the past two days, a U.N. official says.
Fighting leaves vehicles damaged Saturday in the southwestern city of Daraa.
Syrians carry the body of a man allegedly killed in the bombardment of Sukari, southwest of Aleppo, by Syrian regime forces on July 27.
Destruction appears widespread in Homs on Friday, July 27, in a handout photo from the Syrian opposition Shaam News Network.
A Syrian opposition fighter takes aim during clashes with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo on Wednesday, July 25.
Family and friends mourn over the body of Usame Mircan, who they say was killed by a Syrian government sniper in Aleppo on Wednesday.
Usame Mircan’s mother grieves after he was killed during fighting in Aleppo.
The bodies of men killed during clashes between Syrian rebel fighters and goverment forces lie on the Aleppo street on Thursday, July 26.
Fighters from the Syrian opposition rest at a former primary school in Aleppo on Wednesday.
Residents take cover as fighters from the Syrian opposition clash with forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo on Wednesday.
Syrian rebels guard a checkpoint in Aleppo on Wednesday.
A damaged portrait of President Bashar al-Assad sits among piles of debris at a checkpoint manned by Syrian rebels in Aleppo on Wednesday.
Syrian rebels drive through Selehattin near Aleppo during clashes with government forces on Monday, July 23.
A Syrian rebel runs through the streets of Selehattin during an attack on a municipal building. The rebel Free Syrian Army says it is attempting to “liberate” several districts of Aleppo.
Syrian rebels work to find snipers during clashes Monday between the opposition and government forces in Selehattin.
Syrian rebels make their way down a street Monday in Selehattin near Aleppo. If they gain control of Aleppo, it would mark a pivotal point in the Syrian crisis.
Syrian rebels take cover behind sandbags during fighting Monday at the entrance to the city of Selehattin.
On Sunday, July 22, a Syrian refugee looks out from a bus as he arrives at a refugee camp in Turkey opposite the Syrian commercial crossing point Bab al-Hawa.
Syrian refugees flee from a refugee camp nicknamed “Container City” on the Turkish-Syrian border in Kilis province, southern Turkey, on Sunday.
A mortar shell falls toward the Syrian village of Jbatha Al-khashab, about 45 kilometers (28 miles) south of Damascus. It’s seen from the Israeli side of the border, in the Golan Heights.
Smoke from artillery shelling rises above Jbatha Al-khashab.
An armed Syrian rebel wearing the jersey of FC Barcelona rests with comrades near the northern city of Aleppo on Sunday. The rebel Free Syrian Army announced the start of the battle to “liberate” Aleppo, Syria’s commercial hub and a traditional bastion of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
A Free Syrian Army soldier rips a portrait of President Bashar al-Assad at the Bab Al-Salam border crossing to Turkey on Sunday.
Dozens of Turkish truck drivers on Saturday, July 21, accused Free Syrian Army rebels of having burned and looted their lorries as they captured Syria’s Bab al-Hawa post, near Aleppo, from government troops.
In this photo released by the Shaam News Network, a truck burns after shelling in the Erbeen suburb of Damascus on Saturday, July 21.
Refugees fleeing the violence in Syria arrive by bus in Baghdad, Iraq, on Saturday.
Turkish soldiers stand guard at the Cilvegozu border gate in Reyhanly that connects to Syria’s Bab al-Hawa post. An estimated 120,000 people have fled Syria to Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan.
Burned-out trucks at the Bab al-Hawa Syrian border post with Turkey on Friday, July 20. Syrian rebels seized control of the post after a fierce battle with Syrian troops, an AFP photographer at the scene reported.
Syrian soldiers celebrate in the al-Midan area in Damascus on Friday. Syrian regime forces routed rebel fighters from the Damascus neighbourhood of Midan, Syrian state television reported, saying troops had “cleaned” the district of “terrorists.”
Journalists are shown a dead body on a government tour of the al-Midan area in Damascus on Friday.
Members of Syria security forces rest in the al-Midan area in Damascus on Friday.
Syrian army soldiers hang their national flag in a partially destroyed neighborhood in the al-Midan area in Damascus.
Smoke hangs in the air in a partially destroyed neighborhood in the al-Midan area in Damascus.
Members of Syria security forces pose for photographers in the al-Midan area in Damascus after driving out the rebel fighters.
Syrian residents take goods from a truck that rebels captured at the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey on Friday.
A picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency on July 19 shows Syrian General Fahd al-Freij meeting with President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus after his swearing-in ceremony as defense minister.
A man holds up a picture of President Bashar al-Assad at a former police station in Atareb after clashes between Syrian soldiers and Free Syrain Army near Aleppo on Thursday, July 19. Rebels seized control of border crossings with Iraq on Thursday, dealing a new blow to al-Assad, as China and Russia dismayed the West by blocking U.N. action against his regime.
People walk along the street in Atareb amidst damage caused by clashed between Syrian soldiers and the Free Syrian Army.
A Syrian man checks the former police station of Syrian regime after a clash at Atareb on Thursday.
Smoke ascends from from alleged shelling of the Syrian village of Jebata al-Khashab as seen from the hill village of Buqaata in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights on Thursday.
The death toll in Syria on July 12 reached 287, making it the bloodiest day in Syria since the uprising began. As it has done consistently, Syrian state television blamed “armed terrorist groups” for the killings.
A Syrian woman sits with her grandson outside a damaged building after attacks in the Syrian village of Treimsa on July 13, 2012. More than 200 people were massacred in the town, according to activists.
A Syrian demonstrator holds an opposition flag during a protest in Damascus on July 2, 2012. There have been increasing reports of violence in the Syrian capital.
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad waves as he arrives for a speech to Syria’s parliament in Damascus on June 3, 2012. The embattled president denied that government forces were behind the “outrageous” massacre in Houla.
People gather at a mass burial on May 26, 2012 for victims reportedly killed during an artillery barrage from Syrian forces in Houla. The attack left at least 108 people dead, including nearly 50 children, according to the United Nations.
Members of the Free Syrian Army return to Qusayr on May 12, 2012 after an attack on Syrian regime forces in the village of Nizareer, near the Lebanese border in Homs.
A U.N. observer speaks with Syrian rebels and civilians in the village of Azzara on May 4, 2012, days before the country’s parlianemtary polls were held against a backdrop of unrest.
Thousands of Syrians wave their national flag and hold portraits of President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanon’s Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, right, during a rally to show support for their leader on March 29, 2012 in Damascus.
Syrian rebel fighters man a checkpoint leading into the town of Taftanaz in the rebel stronghold province of Idlib on March 20, 2012.
A Free Syrian Army rebel mounts his steed in the Al-Shatouria village near the Turkish border in northwestern Syria on March 16, 2012, a year after the uprising began. The Free Syrian Army is an armed opposition group made up largely of military defectors.
Syrian refugees walk across a field before crossing into Turkey on March 14, 2012. International mediator Kofi Annan called for an immediate halt to the killing of civilians in Syria as he arrived in Turkey for talks on the crisis.
A day after the twin suicide bombings, Syrian mourners pray over the coffins of the 44 people killed during a mass funeral in Damascus.
A Syrian man who was wounded in a suicide attack rests at a hospital in Damascus on December 23, 2011. Suicide bombers hit two security service bases in the Syrian capital, killing dozens of people.
Arab foreign ministers attend an emergency meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo on October 16, 2011, to discuss the crisis in Syria.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to the media in Washington on August 18, 2011. Clinton said U.S. sanctions on Syrian oil “strike at the heart of the Syrian regime.”
Syrian youths wave national flags while army troops drive out of Daraa on May 5, 2011. During a week-long military lockdown of the town, dozens of people were reportedly killed in what activists described as “indiscriminate” shelling on the city.
Syrians in Damascus protest in the street on March 25, 2011, after clashes with government forces in Daraa left several dead.
Supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rally on April 1 in Istanbul, Turkey, as delegates from dozens of countries gather to push for ways to end the deadly violence in Syria. The United Nations estimates more than 10,000 people have been killed since the beginning of the crisis in March 2011. The conflict is now being labeled a civil war by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
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‘Syria becoming a proxy war’
Tice, 31, has been reporting from Syria since May, filing reports for McClatchy, The Washington Post and other news agencies. He documented his experiences in posts on Twitter and through personal pictures he posted at flickr.com, which garnered thousands of followers.
His last public post was on August 11 on Twitter, where he said he spent the day with members of the rebel Free Syrian Army at a pool party with music.
The U.S. State Department is working through the Czech Embassy in Damascus to learn details of Tice’s whereabouts, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told McClatchy.
The news agency is asking anyone with information on the whereabouts of Tice to contact Mark Seibel, the McClatchy Washington bureau’s chief of correspondents, at email@example.com.
On the ground: Fighting rages in Syrian capital
Heavy fighting was reported in and around the capital, Damascus, where Syrian forces have been battling rebels for control, according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria. It also reported the heaviest shelling to date in Latakia.
At least 206 people, including 25 children, were killed in fighting across Syria on Friday, the LCC said. Of those, at least 55 deaths were reported in Damascus and its suburbs; 45 in Deir Ezzor; and 30 in Daraa.
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said soldiers destroyed 40 cars armed with machine guns by “terrorists” in Aleppo province. Security forces clashed with terrorists in various neighborhoods in Aleppo, inflicting “heavy losses in personnel and equipment,” SANA said.
CNN is unable to independently verify reports of violence as Syria has severely limited access to international journalists.
Violence spills into neighboring Lebanon
At least three people were killed and 18 wounded Friday in clashes in the city of Tripoli, in northern Lebanon, according to the official Lebanese National News Agency, NNA.
Heavy sniper fire was heard between rival districts, the news agency said.
Two journalists, one Canadian and the other working for Sky News Arabia, were injured in the Tripoli clashes, it reported.
SANA said armed forces foiled terrorist infiltration efforts from Lebanon into Homs province.
Video of slain journalist’s final hours
The region: Refugee numbers swell
The number of refugees who have fled Syria for neighboring countries has climbed above 200,000, a spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency said Friday.
The tally includes about 74,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey, 61,000 in Jordan, 51,000 in Lebanon and 15,800 in Iraq, said Ariane Rummery, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Lebanon.
Turkey gives a slightly higher number of Syrian refugees on its territory, nearly 78,500. There are also 1.2 million people displaced within Syria, the UNHCR said.
Diplomatic front: Brahimi says Syrian people “our first masters’
Lakhdar Brahimi is the new U.N. and Arab League point man on Syria, but he said Friday that the Syrian people will be “our first masters.”
“We will consider their interests above and before anyone else,” said Brahimi, an Algerian and longtime U.N. diplomat.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the new joint special envoy at the United Nations. Brahimi, who is replacing Kofi Annan, told Ban that despite anxiety about his new position, he is grateful and will do his best.
“Secretary-General, when you called me, I told you that I was honored, flattered, humbled and scared and still in that frame of mind. I will definitely give this my very, very best,” he said.
Annan helped forge a six-point peace plan, which included a cease-fire, but the effort failed to stem the violence in Syria. The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad wants to know what potential solutions Brahimi will put forward.
The conflict broke out in March 2011 after demonstrators, inspired by the success of popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, took to the streets demanding political reform. The movement devolved into an armed conflict after a brutal crackdown by al-Assad’s forces. Opposition forces say more than 20,000 people have died.
CNN’s Saad Abedine, Joseph Netto, Joe Sterling, Nada Husseini, and journalist Gul Tuysuz contributed to this report.