GENEVA - The number of people needing humanitarian assistance in Syria has risen to 1.5 million from the previous estimate of 1 million as escalating violence drives more people from their homes, the United Nations said on Friday.

Aid agencies face "significant" constraints in reaching growing numbers of civilians who need basic goods and protection, it said.

"Up to 1.5 million people now need humanitarian assistance in Syria," Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told a news briefing in Geneva.

They include 350,000 in northern Idlib province and some 250,000 in the flashpoint city of Homs, where more than 100 public buildings have been turned into temporary shelters for people who have fled their homes, an OCHA statement said.

The UN'S World Food Program had distributed food to 461,000 Syrians by mid-June and aims to increase that number to 850,000 in July, the statement said.

Click for full JPost coverage

The world body, which announced on June 5 that it had reached an agreement with Syrian authorities to implement a major assistance program, has been stymied by the deteriorating security situation, according to Laerke.

Reconnaissance missions have been conducted and humanitarian hubs will be established initially in Homs and Deir al-Zor in the east. "However, given the deteriorating security situation, the deployment of staff to field locations is on hold", OCHA said.

More than 96,000 Syrian refugees have now been registered in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey - a rise of nearly 20,000 since May 31, it said, quoting the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

Meanwhile, Syrian state television said armed militants kidnapped and killed 25 people in Darat Azzah village in Aleppo province on Friday.

"Armed terrorist groups committed a brutal massacre against 25 citizens in Darat Azzah," the station said in a news flash.

More people were missing but could not be confirmed dead, it said.

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger