GENEVA Fighting in Syria's western Hama province displaced an estimated 100,000 people between Aug. 28 and Sept. 5, the United Nations said on Wednesday, citing the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the governor of the province.
Syrian rebels launched an offensive last week in northern Hama, an area of strategic importance to President Bashar al-Assad that is home to loyalist towns populated by minority Christians and Alawites. Rebels rapidly captured the town of Halfaya. Pro-Assad forces have hit back with heavy air strikes.
Many people had fled from the fighting towards Hama city and neighbouring villages, as well as north into Idlib province, the U.N. said.
There were originally about 4,500 families in the town of Halfaya, of which 2,800 remain trapped by the fighting while the rest managed to flee, the U.N. report said.
Another 4,500 families were displaced from Taybat al Imam, out of 9,500 in that town, and 5,000 families were uprooted from the army stronghold of Soran, about half the population there.
Many of the displaced people were sleeping outdoors, but four mosques in Hama city and 12 schools in rural areas were temporarily housing people, the U.N. said.
The Red Crescent had provided aid to about 7,000 families in Hama, roughly 35,000 people, and the United Nations sent a convoy of 12 trucks to Hama on Sept. 4 with aid for another 15,000 people. Another 6,500 families still urgently need food and other aid, the U.N. said.
(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Angus MacSwan)