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U.N. nearly doubles aid appeal for Syria

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations nearly doubled its humanitarian appeal for Syria on Friday, seeking $347 million for people in need, including more than half a million children forced to flee their homes.

With the civil war intensifying, the number of people in need of assistance has doubled since July to 2.5 million, prompting the dramatic increase in the U.N. appeal for aid.

The stepped up plea comes even as the original appeal for $180 million is only half-funded. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged donors to increase their contributions.

The European Union announced Friday it will provide an additional (euro) 60 million ($76 million) in humanitarian aid for the war-torn country.

That announcement came days after France decided to provide direct aid and money to five rebel-held Syrian cities, as it intensifies efforts to weaken President Bashar Assad. It was the first such move by a western power amid mounting calls for the international community to do more to prevent blood.shed.

In Italy on Friday, U.S. Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham urged Washington to help arm Syria's rebels with weapons and create a safe zone inside the country for a transition government.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said that more than 1.2 million people are displaced inside Syria, half of them children.

There are also nearly 250,000 Syrian refugees in neighboring Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, including more than 100,000 people who were registered as refugees in August alone, he said.

The updated U.N. humanitarian plan focuses on health, food, livelihoods, repairing infrastructure, community services, education and shelter in conflict areas.