A Syrian woman holds a child as she waits with others to return to Syria, on February 8, 2016 at the Turkish Oncupinar border gate near Kilis, southern-central Turkey. / AFP / BULENT KILIC
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Hundreds of thousands of civilians could be cut off from food if Syrian government forces encircle rebel-held parts of Aleppo, the United Nations said Tuesday, warning of a new exodus of refugees fleeing a Russian-backed assault.Syrian government forces, backed by Russian air strikes and Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, have launched a major offensive in the countryside around Aleppo, which has been divided between government and rebel control for years.It marks one of the most important shifts of momentum in the five-year civil war that has killed 250,000 people and already driven 11 million from their homes. Aleppo was once Syria's biggest city, home to 2 million people.The U.N. urged Ankara on Tuesday to open the border and has called on other countries to assist Turkey with aid.Fifty thousand people had reached Turkey's borders in the latest wave and Ankara was admitting people in a "controlled fashion", he said.
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