- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Obama administration is providing $12 million in new humanitarian assistance to help hundreds of thousands of displaced or suffering Syrian civilians as civil war continues to rage between rebels and the Assad regime.

The U.S. government will send the $12 million in aid to groups such as the international Red Cross and the U.N. refugee agency that are helping to provide food, water, medical supplies, clothing, hygiene kits and other humanitarian relief to those in need.

“After nearly 17 months of conflict, the humanitarian situation is dire and rapidly deteriorating,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. “The United Nations estimates that over 1.5 million people in Syria are in need of humanitarian assistance, over 1 million people are internally displaced, and more than 130,000 people have sought refuge in neighboring countries.”

Mr. Carney called on President Bashar Assad to let go of his tenuous grip on power and step aside and urged other countries around the globe to support a political transition in Syria.

“The quickest end to the bloodshed and suffering of the Syrian people is for Bashar al-Assad to recognize that the Syrian people will not allow him to continue in power, and to step aside to enable a peaceful political transition to a government that is responsive to the aspirations of the Syrian people,” Mr. Carney continued.

The additional aid brings the U.S. humanitarian relief total to $76 million since Syria’s conflict began last year, and it comes one day after reports of a secret order President Obama signed within the past few months giving the green light to U.S. support for Syrian rebels fighting against Mr. Assad’s military.

That covert order provides financial assistance to the rebels but stops short of sending military equipment because U.S. officials don’t know enough about the rebels and their alliances, Reuters and other media outlets reported.

In recent days, reports also have surfaced of Iraqis resisting refugees from the conflict and making life difficult for those who try to escape the violence by crossing the border. Baghdad is worried about the potential for an influx of al Qaeda fighters, as well as rising numbers of Sunnis flowing into the country who could join forces with opponents of the Shiite-controlled government.

Despite these stories, the White House applauded Iraq, as well as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon for hosting and providing assistance to refugees fleeing the “horrific atrocities perpetuated by the Bashar al-Assad regime.”

“As a leading provider of humanitarian relief to those affected by the crisis in Syria, the United States urges all countries around the world to contribute to the United Nations Syria humanitarian appeal,” Mr. Carney said. “We also call on all parties to ensure the safety of civilians and aid workers, and the safe and unimpeded delivery of relief supplies to those in need.”

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