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BEIRUT (AP) -- The International Committee of the Red Cross says that aid deliveries across front lines in war-torn Syria have significantly stepped up, compared to earlier years of the conflict.

A statement on Thursday by ICRC president, Peter Maurer, says there has been an eightfold increase in 2016 in aid deliveries, a trend that continues this year. But Maurer says needs remain grave.

He says people who have returned to their homes as well as the displaced need more sustainable, long-term assistance. Nearly half of Syria's pre-war population of 23 million has been displaced by the conflict.

ICRC spokesman Pawel Krzysiek says the jump from five aid deliveries across conflict lines in 2015 to 56 such operations in 2016 was possible because of continued and improved dialogue with parties to the conflict.

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