x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

UN says 93,000 killed in Syria’s conflict

Based on a pre-war population estimate of 20.8 million, the latest estimate means 0.44 per cent of the population has now been killed - but the UN admits that they the new number probably underestimates the true toll.

Istanbul // Almost 93,000 people have been killed in the Syria conflict, according to the latest United Nations death toll, issued yesterday with a warning that the number was likely to be an underestimate.

The UN human rights office said 92,901 killings had been documented in Syria between March 2011 and the end of April 2013.

A majority of the dead were men but among the victims were at least 6,561 children, more than 1,700 of whom were younger than 10 years old.

"Unfortunately, as the study indicates, this is most likely a minimum casualty figure. The true number of those killed is potentially much higher," said Navi Pillay, the UN's senior human rights official, in a statement published yesterday.

She said killing was continuing at "shockingly high levels" with civilians bearing the brunt of "widespread, violent and often indiscriminate attacks", including children being tortured and entire families executed.

The announcement came a day after a massacre in the eastern desert province of Deir Ezzor in which at least 60 people were killed by rebels.

Those killings, in the village of Hatla, may have been an act of sectarian revenge by Sunnis against Shiites in response to recent attacks on Qusayr, in western Syria, by the Shiite militant group Hizbollah.

Details of what happened in Hatla remain disputed, with pro-regime sources saying civilians were murdered, while opposition sources say militia forces were attacked. Based on a pre-war population estimate of 20.8 million, the latest UN death toll means 0.44 per cent of the population has now been killed.

The scale of the crisis engulfing Syria was underscored last week by the UN as it launched a record-breaking US$5 billion (Dh18.4bn) appeal for humanitarian aid.

At least 1.6 million Syrians are already living as refugees outside of the country, with another 2.5 million having fled their homes but remaining inside Syria.

The UN believes more than 10 million Syrians - half the population - will need some kind of aid by the end of the year.

A total of 263,055 reported killings, collected from eight different sources - although not the Syrian authorities, which have issued no official statistics of their own - formed the basis of the UN's report.

They were then screened so only those detailing the name, date and place of death were included.

"This extremely high rate of killings, month after month, reflects the drastically deteriorating pattern of the conflict over the past year," Ms Pillay said.

"Government forces are shelling and launching aerial attacks on urban areas day in and day out, and are also using strategic missiles and cluster and thermobaric bombs.

"Opposition forces have also shelled residential areas, albeit using less firepower, and there have been multiple bombings resulting in casualties in the heart of cities, especially Damascus."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, one of the groups tracking casualties since the start of the uprising against Bashar Al Assad, said yesterday it had confirmed at least 98,000 deaths in the conflict, but that the total figure could top 130,000.

Figures collected by the Observatory were one of the eight sources used by the UN.That toll includes 25,040 Syrian soldiers and security personnel, and 17,107 pro-Assad militiamen.

Fighting continued yesterday, with regime forces massing for a widely anticipated assault on Aleppo while three rockets, fired by rebels, hit Damascus international airport.

Rebels also seized an army position in Morek, in Hama province.

 

psands@thenational.ae