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UN refugee agency says 84,000 fled Syria last month, bringing total to around half a million

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This citizen journalism image taken from video provided by Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows a wounded man at the site of a Syrian government airstrike on a gas station in the eastern Damascus suburb of Mleiha, Syria, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. Activists say dozens of people have been killed or wounded in an air raid on a gas station near the capital Damascus. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video) (The Associated Press)

The U.N. refugee agency says about 84,000 people fled the escalating civil war in Syria in December alone, bringing the total number of those displaced since the beginning of the 22-month-old conflict to around half a million.

The agency said Wednesday that the number of registered refugees rose from about 394,000 to 478,000 within a month. If those still awaiting registration are included, around 569,000 people have fled Syria for neighboring countries.

It says Turkey hosts the largest group of registered Syrian refugees, totaling almost 150,000 as of Jan. 1. Some 130,000 people have fled to Lebanon, and another 120,000 to Jordan. Iraq hosts some 68,000 refugees.

Separately, another U.N. body said new figures suggest more than 60,000 people have died in the Syrian conflict, topping activists' estimate of 45,000.