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Over 830,000 forced to flee northwest Syria since December

Over 830,000 forced to flee northwest Syria since December
Syrian people look on as they stand at the Syrian-Turkish border wall with Arabic reading 'open safe passages' earlier this month. File Photo by Yahya Nemah/EPA-EFE

Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Over 830,00 Syrians have been forced to flee the northwest of the country since December, U.N. figures show.

The number of refugees had reached over 830,000, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Friday, including 143,000 in the last three days with ongoing fighting across Idlib city, and Aleppo, since December.

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The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had released a report Thursday that showed that as of Wednesday, the number of refugees since December had already topped 800,000.

"Women and children - - who represent 81 percent of the newly displaced people - - are again among those who suffer the most," the report stated.

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It's estimated some 60 percent of the refugees are children, several of whom have reportedly died due to freezing temperatures.

Refugees have been fleeing an escalation in fighting between the Russia and Iran-backed Syrian military and opposition groups, which have some Turkish support.

Earlier this month, Turkey's military forces retaliated against the Syrian government after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's troops killed several Turkish soldiers and civilians in war-scarred Idlib province.

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Syrian government forces have been trying to crush the last rebel-held bastion in the country's nine-year civil war since December.

The offensive has caused "one of the worst man-made displacements that we have seen anywhere in the world in years," said Sven Jurgenson, Estonia's ambassador to the United Nations, speaking on behalf of European Union members.

EU members of the U.N. Security Council in New York requested closed-door talks on the crisis.

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"Attacks continue to include civilian targets in densely-populated areas, medical facilities and settlements for internally displaced people," Jurgenson told reporters after the closed-door meeting. "These attacks must stop immediately."

Refugees have fled towards the Turkish border. Turkey already hosts 3.6 million refugees and says it cannot host more.

"Millions of civilians remain trapped in the area, the vast majority of whom are women and children," Jurgenson said. "They are facing harsh winter conditions without being able to cover basic needs for shelter, water, food and healthcare."

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A that "recent upsurge in hostilities" disrupted trucks carrying supplies into the region from Turkey earlier this week, causing a 24-hour break in distribution of emergency food assistance, which has since resumed, the World Food Programme said in a statement Friday.

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"We are deeply concerned about the fate of thousands of families who had to leave their homes in freezing temperatures in search for safety in camps that are already overcrowded," WFP Regional Director Muhannad Hadi said in the statement. "In Syria, civilians continue to pay the price for the ongoing conflict."

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