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United Nations: Syria Civil War Death Toll Tops 60,000; Both Sides Guilty of War Crimes

More than 60,000 people have died as a result of nearly two years of fighting between government forces and rebels in Syria, the United Nations claims.

The UN said on Wednesday that the death toll in Syria’s 22-month-old civil war exceeds estimates made by rebel forces by one-third. Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, slammed the international community– including the United Nations– for “fiddling around the edges while Syria burns.”

Reuters reports that UN researchers cross-referenced seven sources of data to compile a list of 59,648 men, women and children reported killed in the civil war between March 2011 and November 2012.

“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.”

A Syrian woman surveys the ruins of her al-Qsair home, which was destroyed by a Syrian Army mortar. (Photo: Freedom House)

A Syrian woman surveys the ruins of her al-Qsair home, which was destroyed by a Syrian Army mortar. (Photo: Freedom House)

The last time the UN came out with an estimate of the number of people killed in the conflict was last May, when 10,000 Syrians were believed to have died.

Pillay blamed both sides for the ongoing violence, which she characterized as sectarian strife between Sunni rebels and the ruling Assad regime’s forces, which are dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shia Islam.

“As the situation has continued to degenerate, increasing numbers have also been killed by anti-government armed groups, and there has been a proliferation of serious crimes including war crimes and, most probably, crimes against humanity, by both sides,” Pillay said. “Cities, towns and villages have been, and are continuing to be, devastated by aerial attacks, shelling, tank fire, bomb attacks and street to street fighting.”

Pillay said that many more Syrians will likely die unless the conflict is brought to a swift end.

“Unless there is a quick resolution to the conflict, I fear thousands more will die or suffer terrible injuries as a result of those who harbor the obstinate belief that something can be achieved by more bloodshed, more torture and more mindless destruction,” she said. “Those people that are carrying out these serious crimes should understand that they will one day be brought to justice.”

Meanwhile, continued fighting claimed more than 100 lives on Wednesday, and on Thursday rebels concentrated attacks against airports and airfields in an attempt to neutralize the government’s air superiority. Rebels attacked Taftanaz base in northwestern Idlib province, as well as airports in Aleppo and Deir Ezzor.

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