By Sam Webb
Syria’s uprising began in March 2011 with protests against President Bashar Assad’s authoritarian rule.
When the government cracked down on demonstrators, the opposition took up arms and the conflict turned into a full-blown civil war. The United Nations estimates that more than 70,000 people have been killed.
The relentless violence also has devastated many cities and forced hundreds of thousands of Syrians to seek refuge abroad.
Guterres said the number of refugees has swelled dramatically this year, with most Syrians pouring into Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.
The war has escalated in recent months, and more than 400,000 of those people become refugees since the start of 2013.
Guterres said the refugees often arrive in neighbouring countries ‘traumatised, without possessions and having lost members of their families’.
Around half are children, the majority under the age of 11.
‘We are doing everything we can to help, but the international humanitarian response capacity is dangerously stretched,’ he said. ‘This tragedy has to be stopped.’
The UN in December estimated that 1.1 million Syrian refugees would arrive in neighboring countries by the end of June this year. Budgeting for the UN’s regional response plan are being adjusted in light of the new figures, Guterres added.
On Monday Syrian rebels tore down a bronze statue of President Bashar Assad’s late father and predecessor as they pushed government troops from most of the northern city of Raqqa.
Scores of cheering protesters ripped down the statue in scenes reminiscent of Iraq in 2003, when angry civilians toppled a giant statue of Saddam Hussein.
Rebels hold control in parts of several major Syrian cities – several neighborhoods in Aleppo, Homs and Deir el-Zour, as well as suburbs of the capital, Damascus.
But if they seize control of Raqqa, it would be the first time an entire city had fallen into the hands of anti-Assad fighters.