Catholic Charity Preparing for Influx of Syrian Refugees to Lebanon

As violence in Syria continues, nearly reaching the proportions of a civil war, Catholic charity Caritas Lebanon is preparing itself to receive more Syrian refugees into the country and to offer services to those who already there.

The United Nations estimates that as many as 10,000 Syrian refugees are in Lebanon now, over half of which crossed the border since last year's violence began.

Most of the refugees are living with relatives, according to Caritas Lebanon official Najla Chahda, with their greatest needs being, "security….food, and hygiene" materials.

Caritas has already sent teams to deliver non-food items such as clothing, blankets and hygiene kits to refugees in Beirut and other cities, and is currently preparing convents to house future refugees.

But while Chahda expects the number of refugees to increase in the coming weeks, she says the total number of those fleeing Syria is relatively small mostly due to security issues.

"It's a small number because we don't think that up till now that a lot of Syrians have left their villages," Chahda told Vatican Radio. "First, for security reasons, they can't cross, second, there is some concern for Syrians to leave their homes and villages. They prefer to stay in order to preserve what they have."

Caritas' preparations come as government forces continue to shell the central of Homs, where rebels have control of several neighborhoods.

On Monday, Syrian military tanks and other reinforcements could be seen heading towards the city for what many expect to be a bloody offensive strike.

Opposition forces have been launching more coordinated attacks in recent weeks, with their efforts focused on removing key officials loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

On Sunday, rebels killed a senior state prosecutor and a judge in a roadway ambush, just a day after gunning down a city council member in the city of Aleppo, which has been a center of support for Assad since the uprising began.

A week prior, rebels assassinated Syrian army General Issa al-Khouli, the chief a Damascus military hospital, as he left his home.

Meanwhile, Egypt showed its waning support for Assad on Sunday as it withdrew is Syrian ambassador for the country.

The north African nation is the latest addition to a growing list of countries who have opposed Assad for his continuing use of violence.

According to the U.N., nearly 5,000 Syrians have been killed since conflict in the country began nearly one year ago.

Local sources say the numbers could be as high as 7,000, although there is no way to verify the numbers, since nearly all foreign journalists and human rights groups are banned from Syria.

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