x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

UN's Ban Ki-moon raises Syria death toll to more than 100,000

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday raised the death toll in Syria’s civil war to more than 100,000, up from nearly 93,000 just over a month ago.

Syrian government forces perform military manoeuvres in an unknown location.
Syrian government forces perform military manoeuvres in an unknown location.

DAMASCUS // United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday raised the death toll in Syria’s civil war to more than 100,000, up from nearly 93,000 just over a month ago.

Meanwhile a watchdog said at least 2,014 people, mostly combatants, have been killed since the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan began on July 10. More than 1,323 of the dead were pro- and anti-regime fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Mr Ban called on the Syrian government and opposition to halt the violence in the two-year civil war, saying it is "imperative to have a peace conference in Geneva as soon as possible."

The secretary-general spoke before talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who stood nearby.

"There is no military solution to Syria," Mr Kerry then told reporters. "There is only a political solution, and that will require leadership to bring people to the table."

The United States and Russia are trying to convene an international conference in Geneva, along with the United Nations, to try to agree on a transitional government based on a plan adopted in that city a year ago.

As the new toll of Syria's conflict was announced, the latest casualties were already mounting. A powerful car bomb exploded in a suburb of the Syrian capital Thursday, killing 10 people and wounding dozens of others, Syria's state-run news agency said. The state news agency SANA reported that the explosion caused heavy damage to nearby buildings and destroyed many cars. It said 62 people were wounded. Jaramana, a neighbourhood that overwhelmingly supports the government of President Bashar Assad, has been targeted by a series of explosions before.

Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said all death toll figures were likely underestimated, since both sides in the conflict "concealed the real number of dead."

The death toll for combatants killed has spiked in recent weeks "because the intensity of the fighting is escalating", he said. Also yesterday, Syria's government lashed out at the US decision to send arms to rebels fighting Mr Assad's troops, saying Washington is unsuitable to act as a broker at any peace negotiations in Geneva. "The American intensions seek to continue the cycle of violence and terrorism in Syria to destabilise security and stability in the region," the foreign ministry said in a statement. The Obama administration opposed providing any lethal assistance to Syria's rebels until last month, but is now moving ahead with sending weapons to vetted rebels after securing the approval of the House and Senate Intelligence committees.

*Associated Press and Agence France Presse