The United Nations predicted a jump in the number of Syrian refugees and appealed for nearly half a billion dollars to help meet their needs as a major rebel offensive in the country's largest city, Aleppo, got under way.
The number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries could reach 700,000 by the end of the year, the U.N. refugee agency said. That figure would represent about 3% of the country's population.
The agency gave the number in an announcement seeking $487.9 million to support Syrian refugees. The United Nations is leading 52 humanitarian organizations in the effort.
The funds would go toward the soaring number of refugees flocking to Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey.
In March, the United Nations predicted that as many as 100,000 Syrians could become refugees by the end of the year, but that figure was surpassed in July. The new projection indicates the worsening situation on the ground.
There are 294,000 Syrian refugees registered or awaiting registration in neighboring countries, the agency said.
In northern Syria, people fleeing the war endure filthy conditions at an impromptu encampment. Thousands of Syrians were being turned back at the border with Turkey, which said its facilities were overfilled.
Children were scavenging in surrounding fields for twigs to use for cooking fires as women line up next to a water tank that was pumping milky-looking water.
Many of the residents told stories of having fled towns that were pummeled by rockets and airstrikes.
The Syrian crisis broke out in March 2011 after unarmed protesters, inspired by the success of popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, took to the streets demanding political reform and an end to four decades of rule by the Assad family.
The movement devolved into an armed conflict after a brutal and continuing crackdown by regime forces.
Since the unrest began, more than 30,000 people have been killed, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.