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Terrorism & Security

Syrian troops recapture rebel-held town, cutting off refugees

In a blow to rebels, Syrian troops recaptured a border town used by refugees to cross into Jordan, according to activists.

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For those displaced by the conflict, finding safety, food, and water is increasingly precarious, according to a report by the BBC.

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Latin America Editor

Whitney Eulich is the Monitor's Latin America editor, overseeing regional coverage for CSMonitor.com and the weekly magazine. She also curates the Latin America Monitor Blog.

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Every family has a story to tell – stories of fear and horror, of blood and loss.

One of the men, Abu Salem, says he fled the central town of Rastan with his wife and four children four months ago after a rocket hit their house.

They travelled to Damascus and ended up renting a 50 sq m (538 sq ft) flat in one of the capital's suburbs. Then early last month, the area came under heavy bombardment from government forces.

Abu Salem says they yet again had to flee, but this time there was no place to go except a nearby public park. They spent 12 days there with many other families until some aid workers found them a place at the old house.

"The neighbours provided us with some food, but we spent 12 days without a shower," he recalls.

Abu Salem used to work in construction but – like hundreds of thousands of other Syrian men – he has not earned anything since protests against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. Like hundreds of thousands of other Syrians, he and his family have also been displaced from their homes by the ensuing conflict.

The humanitarian crisis is not contained within Syria. Refugees, like those in the town of Tel Chehab, are fleeing into neighboring countries like Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan in the thousands. More than 25,000 Syrian refugees crossed into Jordan and registered with the United Nations humanitarian agency last month alone, and there are close to 100,000 Syrians in Turkish camps today. The total number of refugees is estimated at 235,000, according to an editorial in the Los Angeles TImes.

The war has an estimated death toll of more than 23,000 people, activists say, with nearly 5,000 people killed in August, the highest monthly total since the crisis began in March last year, according to AP.

Despite these numbers, few are arguing for international military intervention in Syria. According to an editorial by the Los Angeles Times, military intervention is too risky, and the international community’s focus should remain on helping refugees and the displaced:

Dismay over the continued violence in Syria is understandable and should impel the United States, other "friends of Syria" and the United Nations to support relief measures including, if necessary, the creation of safe havens for refugees. But the Obama administration is right to stop short of either arming Syrian rebels – who, according to U.S. intelligence officials, have been infiltrated by Islamic extremists from outside the country – or engaging in direct military intervention. Advocates of military involvement exaggerate the ease with which the U.S. could shape events in Syria and underestimate the dangers.

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