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GENEVA Feb 15 An estimated 40,000 people have
fled a town in eastern Syria after three days of heavy fighting
between government troops and rebels, the United Nations food
Rebels seized al-Shaddadeh in Syria's oil-producing east on
Thursday after the clashes which killed 30 of their fighters and
100 Syrian government troops, a violence monitoring group told
"A WFP (World Food Programme) team visited the area and
estimated that around 40,000 people have fled al-Shaddadeh to
al-Hasakah city (the regional capital)," the U.N. agency told
journalists in Geneva on Friday.
Northeastern Syria was hit by four years of drought before
the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad started nearly two
years ago, resulting in high rates of malnutrition among
children, WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said.
"The fighting and displacement only aggravates the misery of
these people," she said, adding the agency had sent extra
rations to the area this week.
Taking Shaddadeh brings the rebels closer to the provincial
capital Hasakah, 45 km (30 miles) to the north in the
surrounding Hasakah province.
The fresh displacement adds to an estimated 2.5 million
people already uprooted within Syria, many living in squalid
conditions in schools and other public buildings converted into
shelters, according to the United Nations.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Andrew Heavens)