2 Jan 2013

Syria uprising claims 60,000 lives, says United Nations

The United Nations has dramatically raised the number of people killed in the Syrian uprising and civil war – calling the death toll “truly shocking”. Dozens more people died in attacks today.

(unverified video believed to be of the petrol station attack in Damascus)

Witnesses said at least 30 people were killed in a suburb of Damascus on Wednesday after an airstrike by Syrian jets hit a petrol station, turning it into an inferno. Drivers who had been queuing for fuel were burned to death in their cars.

Activists said rockets were fired from a Syrian air base into the largely residential area of Mulaiha. They said people had been rushing to the petrol station after new supplies arrived for the first time in several days, and became caught up in the air raid.

Death toll rises

The UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said researchers who had carried out exhaustive analysis from seven sources, over a period of five months, estimate that more than 60,000 people have been killed since the unrest began in March 2011.

“Given there has been no let-up in the conflict since the end of November, we can assume that more than 60,000 people have been killed by the beginning of 2013, she said. “The number of casualties is much higher than we expected, and is truly shocking.”

Pillay blamed the Syrian regime for “ruthless suppression of what were initially peaceful and legitimate protests by unarmed civilians”, causing the unrest to escalate into all-out conflict, with a massive loss of life.

“There has been a proliferation of serious crimes, including war crimes, and – most probably – crimes against humanity, by both sides”, she said.

There are many names not on the list for people who were quietly shot in the woods. Rupert Colville, UNHCR spokesman

The commissioner described the study as “the most detailed and wide ranging analysis of casualty figures so far”, although she admitted it was not a definitive figure. Efforts to confirm the nature of each death were hampered by the fact that UN staff have not been allowed into Syria to check for themselves.

Opposition sources have previously estimated the number of dead at 45,000. This is the first time that the UN has come up with a higher figure.

Pillay’s spokesman Rupert Colville told the Associated Press the true number of dead could be far higher. “There are many names not on the list for people who were quietly shot in the woods”, he said.

The report also shows that the violence in Syria is getting bloodier, while the world looks on. “The failure of the international community, in particular the Security Council, to take concrete actions to stop the blood-letting, shames us all”, said Pillay.

“Collectively, we have fiddled at the edges while Syria burns.”