More than 60,000 dead in Syria: UN

More than 60,000 dead in Syria: UN

More than 60,000 dead in Syria: UN

A man sits as others dig graves for future casualties at a cemetery in Azaz. UN says the number of casulties has reached to 60,000. REUTERS photo

More than 60,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s government erupted in March 2011, a top U.N. official said yesterday amid renewed clashes across the country, including an air raid on a Damascus suburb that killed at least 30 people.

Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said an exhaustive analysis carried out by data specialists showed that 59,648 people had died through the end of November.

“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,” Pillay said. “The number of casualties is much higher than we expected, and is truly shocking.”

Pillay had said in December 2011 that the U.N. was unable to provide a precise figure on the number of deaths, and media have been relying on the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based watchdog, which on Dec. 31 had put the total number of those killed at more than 46,000.

In reference to the U.N. figure, Pillay said yesterday that “although this is the most detailed and wide-ranging analysis of casualty figures so far, this is by no means a definitive figure.”

“We have not been able to verify the circumstances of each and every death, partly because of the nature of the conflict and partly because we have not been allowed inside Syria since the unrest began in March 2011,” she said. “Once there is peace in Syria, further investigations will be necessary to discover precisely how many people have died, and in what circumstances, and who was responsible for all the crimes that have been committed.”

The analysts cited by the U.N. official noted that 60,000 was likely to be an underestimate of the actual number of deaths, given that reports containing insufficient information were excluded from the list, and that a significant number of killings might not have been documented.

On the ground, at least 30 civilians were killed yesterday when Syrian warplanes bombed a petrol station in a rebellious suburb on the eastern edge of Damascus, activists said.

“I counted at least 30 bodies. They were either burnt or dismembered,” said Abu Saeed, an activist in the town of Muleiha suburb of Damascus said. Another activist, Abu Fouad, said warplanes had bombarded the area as a consignment of fuel arrived and crowds packed the station.

Muleiha is one of a series of Sunni Muslim suburbs ringing the capital that have been at the forefront of the 21-month revolt. Government forces control the center of Damascus and have been pounding the suburbs from the air.

Meanwhile, rebels attacked a sprawling air base in Idlib province near the Turkish border as the opposition expanded its offensive on military airports in an attempt to sideline a major weapon in the hands of al-Assad’s forces. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rebel assault on the Taftanaz base was preceded by heavy shelling of the area, and the fighters appeared to be trying to storm the facility.

Compiled from AFP, Reuters and AP stories by the Daily News staff.