BEIRUT, Lebanon

More than 100,000 Syrians flee civil war during August

More than 100,000 Syrians fled their country in August, the highest monthly total since the crisis began in March 2011, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday.

That exodus sharply increased the number of Syrians now living in neighboring countries, bringing the total number of refugees to 234,368 in the past 17 months, the agency said.

Along with activists’ reports that the death toll in August was also the highest in the civil war with 5,000 killed, all signs are pointing to unprecedented levels of misery in a country where President Bashar Assad’s regime is fighting an increasingly violent rebellion.

“If you do the math, it’s quite an astonishing number,” U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said of the number of people who fled in August, speaking to reporters Tuesday in Geneva.

“And it points to a significant escalation in refugee movement and people seeking asylum, and probably points to a very precarious and violent situation inside the country,” she said.

But even the August figure only counts refugees who are registered and those awaiting registration. Officials acknowledge the real number of Syrian refugees is likely way above 200,000, because tens of thousands are believed to have not yet contacted authorities.

MONTREAL

Quebec may elect separatist first female prime minister

People in Quebec weighed returning a separatist party to power as they voted Tuesday in the French-speaking province, which could edge toward another referendum to break away from Canada if the Parti Quebecois ends nearly a decade of Liberal rule as expected.

Liberal leader Jean Charest, who has headed Quebec for nearly a decade, has consistently trailed in the polls to Pauline Marois’ Parti Quebecois since he called an early election Aug. 1. But most polls indicate Marois — who could become the province’s first female premier — will not have enough votes to obtain a majority of the seats in the Quebec Assembly, undermining efforts to quickly hold a referendum on separation.

Quebec has held two referendums to split from Canada, in 1980 and 1995.

CAIRO, Egypt

Hackers hit Al-Jazeera site to protest coverage of Syria

The official website of the Al-Jazeera TV satellite channel was attacked Tuesday by hackers backing the Syrian regime.

Hackers replaced the home page of Al-Jazeera’s Arabic site with a statement that said the cyberattack was a protest against its coverage of the Syrian civil war.

The Qatar-based channel has extensively covered the 17-month-long Syrian conflict.