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Tragedy unfolds in opposition-held northern Syria: U.N. relief chief

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The opposition-held northern Syria is out of reach for international relief operations and a “humanitarian tragedy” is unfolding there, U .N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said on Tuesday.

“We are watching a humanitarian tragedy unfold before our eyes,” Amos told a news briefing. “We must do all we can to reassure the people that we care and that we will not let them down.”

Amos said that funds pledged to help Syrians have started to flow in from donors but that the Syrian government still refuses to allow U.N. convoys to cross from Turkey into northern Syria, as most border crossings are controlled by the Free Syrian Army.

She said Saudi Arabia has already pumped in $22 million into the international relief program in Syria.

During a Syria donors conference held in Kuwait last month, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates pledged $900 million to help fund humanitarian efforts for Syrians affected by nearly two years of conflict.

The Gulf nations’ promises -- in addition to earlier relief fund increases by the U.S. and European Union -- pushed close to the U.N.’s appeal for at least $1.5 billion in immediate aid. But the funds are only expected to cover the coming months, highlighting the massive burden to cope with needs from Syria’s civil war and its spillover in the region.

Syrian Ambassador to the U.N. Bashar Jaafari, meanwhile, accused the Gulf States of manipulating the humanitarian crisis in Syria to their political advantage.

According to him, Syria has allowed Non-Government Organizations to reach most places in need of humanitarian help and vowed that those who committed “sexual crimes” against Syrian women will be tried.

Jaafari also has accused the Security Council of overlooking “facts” on ground, in a U.N. press conference held in Wednesday. He said a list of names of “terrorists” pouring into Syria from Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan were given to the Security Council but the U.N. body did not take the Syrian documents seriously.

On another aspect, the Unites States said on Wednesday that it will increased non-lethal aid to Syrians and the Syrian opposition in an effort to speed a political transition in Syria.

“We are constantly reviewing the nature of the assistance we provide to both the Syrian people, in form of humanitarian assistance, and to the Syrian opposition in the form of non-lethal assistance,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at a briefing.

Washington has sided with the Syrian opposition in seeking the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.

“We will continue to provide assistance to the Syrian people, to the Syrian opposition, we will continue to increase our assistance in the effort to bring about a post-Assad Syria,” Carney said.

The Washington Post has reported that the White House was considering a shift in policy toward the nearly two-year-long conflict in Syria and may send the rebels body armor and armed vehicles, and possibly provide military training. According to the report, U.S. officials still oppose providing arms.