Syrian President Bashar Assad met with the head of the International Red Cross on Tuesday met in Damascus on Tuesday, amid a new UN report indicating that 103,000 refugees fled Syria in August alone, the highest monthly rate since unrest in the country began.
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In Geneva, UN refugee agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said that by September 2, over 234,000 Syrian refugees had turned to the organization for help, saying: "When you do the math, it’s quite an astonishing number."
During the 45-minute Damascus meeting with the Syrian president Red Cross chief Peter Maurer asked Assad to show respect for humanitarian law and for ways to help his organization reach the needy across Syria.
"The meeting focused on the all humanitarian issues and the protection of civilians ... and it also touched on the ICRC visits to prisons," Rabab Rifai, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokeswoman in Damascus, told DPA.
After the meeting, the ICRC chief toured the area of Mazamiyeh, in Damascus, and visited a Syrian Red Crescent medical station. He also toured a school hosting displaced civilians. State television said Assad had told Maurer that he supports the work of the ICRC in Syria, so long as it remains "impartial and independent."
The ICRC and the Red Crescent have provided relief to more than 800,000 people and helped more than 1 million people access clean water, an ICRC statement said.
There are currently 8,000 people waiting to cross the border to Turkey, the agency added. Violence, meanwhile, continued to grip areas in the north and near the Lebanese-Syrian border, with activists reporting 40 deaths across the country. Activists based in Lebanon told DPA that the sound of heavy shelling could be heard across the border and that black smoke covered the Zabadani area inside Syria.
In Aleppo, rebels claimed to have snatched rocket launchers from government forces, according to video footage posted online showing rebels standing next to a truck carrying a rocket launcher. State-run television quoted an army military commander as saying their forces will soon "crush" the rebels in the northern province.
The latest developments came as international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi was scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly. In New York, the former UN-Arab League envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, will formally handover the post to Brahimi, who will also meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the UN headquarters