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Free Syrian Army fighters cover two dead bodies during heavy clashes in Aleppo last year, when the death rate skyrocketed.

Associated Press (2012)

Free Syrian Army fighters cover two dead bodies during heavy clashes in Aleppo last year, when the death rate skyrocketed.

U.N. again raises Syria death estimates

The U.N. human rights office said it had documented 92,901 killings in Syria between March 2011 and the end of April 2013. But the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, said it was impossible to provide an exact number, which could be far higher. The figure was up from nearly 60,000 through the end of November, recorded in an analysis released in January. Since then, U.N. officials had estimated higher numbers, most recently 80,000. The latest report adds more confirmed killings to the previous time period and an additional 27,000 between December and April.

"There are also well-documented cases of individual children being tortured and executed, and entire families including babies being massacred — which, along with this devastatingly high death toll, is a terrible reminder of just how vicious this conflict has become," Pillay said.

Who has been killed?

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has its own count based on a network of activists around the country, said 98,416 people have been killed from the start of the uprising until Wednesday, many of them members of the military or pro-regime militiamen. The Observatory's figures include:

civilians: 36,139

Regime fighters: 42,147, including military and defense forces, as well as pro-government militias known as the Popular Committees, shabiha and National Defense Forces.

An arc of violence

U.N. figures show the average monthly number of documented killings rising:

Summer 2011: 1,000 killed per month

Since July 2012: 5,000 per month

July-October 2012: More than 6,000 per month

By comparison: Lebanon and Iraq

The soaring death toll underscores the brutal nature of the conflict in Syria, even in comparison with sectarian conflicts that ravaged neighbors Lebanon and Iraq.

IRAQ: A review by the Associated Press in April 2009 showed that more than 110,600 Iraqis died in violence since the U.S.-led invasion six years earlier. The actual number was likely higher because many of those listed as missing were doubtless buried in the chaos of war without official records.

LEBANON: About 150,000 people are believed to have died in Lebanon's 15-year civil war, which ended in 1990, and some 17,000 people are still missing. Sectarian sensitivities still prevail in Lebanon, more than two decades after the war ended.

U.S. reaction

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. was saddened at the latest U.N. estimate, "but we're not shocked." She said Assad "has used indiscriminate and disproportionate force against Syrian civilians and inflicted unthinkable suffering upon his own people."

The latest fighting

The Syrian military is currently reported to be preparing an assault on the northern city of Aleppo, which has been divided between rebel and government forces for almost a year. Any battle to retake Aleppo would likely be protracted and bloody. On Thursday, a mortar round slammed into an area near the runway at Damascus International Airport, briefly disrupting flights to and from the Syrian capital, officials said. The attack came a few weeks after the government announced it had secured the airport road that had been targeted by rebels in the past.

Associated Press, McClatchy Newspapers

93,000 06/13/13 [Last modified: Thursday, June 13, 2013 11:05pm]
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