BEIJING, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- Civil war-stricken Syria was hit by an unprecedented string of sectarian kidnappings and a power outage over the weekend.
On Saturday, government troops and rebels clashed around the international airport and two airbases in Syria's northern province of Aleppo. The rebels' main goal was to take control of the Aleppo international airport, the second largest in the country, but they met strong counter strikes.
Analysts say the rebels have recently stepped up their offensives to capture more strategic territories in a bid to prod President Bashar al- Assad into negotiations and strengthen their hand in the possible talks.
The Syrian crisis has dragged on for nearly two years, with no signs of an end in sight. Its fallout is emerging and spreading.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Saturday a spate of sectarian kidnappings over the past two days.
Meanwhile, a power outage added to the woes in the capital of Damascus and the southern provinces of Daraa and Sweida on Saturday.
The residents in Damascus have grown used to frequent power cuts as the country's conflict has damaged infrastructure and sapped the government's finances.
In addition, the refugee crisis is weighing on the international community, especially neighboring countries. According to the United Nations refugee agency, 2.5 million Syrian people have fled their home, with 728,553 refugees in neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said last week that the number of people fleeing fighting in Syria could reach 1.1 million by June.
The humanitarian situation in Syria is "the most dramatic crisis we are facing today," he said, adding that developed nations, including those in Europe, need to accept more refugees as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon have done.
UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- The World Food Programme ( WFP) is expanding its food assistance inside Syria to reach 2.5 million people in the coming months, as the political crisis and violent conflict continue in the Middle East country, a UN spokesman said here on Friday.
"With that expansion, the agency will need nearly 160 million U. S. dollars to cover the cost of its Syria operation up to June this year," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said at a daily news briefing. Full story