DAMASCUS, March 6 (Xinhua) -- Military reinforcements have arrived at the outskirts of Syria's northeastern city of al-Raqqa, a pro-government paper said Wednesday, as the UN placed the number of displaced people outside Syria at one million.
Quoting sources in al-Raqqa, the al-Watan daily denied what had been circulated on media outlets about the rebels taking full control over the city, saying: "pitch battles are being fought by the army and security units in several points of the city and its outskirts coupled with fierce resistance by residents against the occupiers (rebels)."
The city has been subject to an "armed invasion" by "terrorists and criminals" over the past two days, the paper said, adding that those who have attacked al-Raqqa weren't revolutionaries but " criminals" released from the central prison by the al-Qaida-linked Ahrar al-Sham battalions.
Meanwhile, the paper cited a military source as saying that " few days are separating us from the return of tranquility to the city and its countryside."
In the northern province of Aleppo, the Syrian troops continued their operations in the southeast part of Aleppo after securing towns and villages in the east and the road to the international airport.
While the intensity of battles increases on ground, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday in Qatar that the U.S. administration has become more confident that weapons sent to the rebels in Syria by regional countries, such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are falling in the hands of the moderate rebels, not the radical members.
Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday that the number of Syrians who fled the country since the beginning of crisis two years ago reached one million, making out about five percent of the country's total population.
"With a million people in flight, millions more displaced internally, and thousands of people continuing to cross the border every day, Syria is spiraling towards full-scale disaster," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said. "This tragedy has to be stopped," he added.