Syrian Death Toll Tops 100,000 as Massive Refugee Crisis Deepens

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The United Nations has officially put the death toll from Syria's two-and-a-half year civil war at more than 100,000 victims, but the millions of Syrians left behind, many of whom have been displaced by the violence, are facing an increasingly dire situation of their own.

At least two million Syrians have fled the country since the war began, with most of them stranded in squalid refugee camps across the border of neighboring countries like Jordan and Turkey. Millions more have been driven from their homes as entire towns have been wiped from the Earth and citizens try to find the few places left in the country where they can be safe from bombs and guns. The Guardian has devoted a full day of stories just to this refugee problem and how it has likely altered Syria (and its neighbors) forever. 

More than 140,000 refugees have piled into the Zataari camp in Jordan in the last year — enough to make it that country's fourth-largest city — even though the camp was only built to hold 60,000. This aerial shot of the camp taken last week shows the scope of the problem, even though it represents only about one-fifth of the total refugees living in Jordan right now.

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REUTERS/Mandel Ngan/Pool 

The war hasn't ended for these people either. There is violence and crime in the camps, too, and food shortages and disease are also rampant. Women in the camp are routinely harassed and even raped. Rich men from other countries come to buy teenage daughters from desperate families that cannot support them anymore. Some families feel they're safer elsewhere, even back in Syria, than they are in the remote desert camps.

The situation is looking bleak for the rebel fighters as well. The Telegraph reports that many of them are defecting back to Bashar al-Assad's side, having been disillusioned by the increasingly sectarian nature of the war, and a series of recent defeats that have made victory seem less likely. As more Islamic extremists poured into the country to wreak havoc, making the fighting more brutal and vindictive, those willing to lay down their arms are quietly being offered amnesty by the government. One "moderate" rebel told the paper, "Now extremists control my town. My family has moved back to government side because our town is too unsafe. Assad is terrible, but the alternative is worse."

The war has reached a bit of a stalemate in recent months, as international aid to the rebels is slowly dragging through the political process and the government has taken back some of the territory it lost previously. The violence has not decreased though, and there are new reports of chemical weapons attacks, this time aimed at refugees from the Palestinian conflict who once came to Syria to escape violence. As the rebellion has become fractured, and the population more scattered than ever, Syria looks more and more like a problem that might never be solved.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.