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Syria death toll estimate soars to 60,000

UN commissioner reveals sharp rise in number of those believed killed in conflict, as petrol queue air strike claims more lives.

AT LEAST 60,000 people have died in Syria’s conflict, the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner said on Wednesday, citing an ‘‘exhaustive’’ study that has sharply increased the number of those believed killed. Before the latest survey it had been estimated that up to 45,000 people had died during the conflict.

Dozens were reported killed on Tuesday after a government warplane bombed people queuing at a petrol station in a Damascus suburb.

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The UN report said  almost three-quarters of those listed as killed on both sides of the conflict were men. Estimating casualties is notoriously difficult in the midst of war, but the UN said  it had established the name, place and date of death of each of those it had counted.

The real toll is likely to be greater because reports containing incomplete information were excluded and  many killings may not have been documented.  ‘‘There are many names not on the list for people who were quietly shot in the woods,’’  Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the Human Rights Commissioner, Navi Pillay said.

Over five months of analysis, researchers cross-referenced seven sources to compile a list of 59,648 individuals reported killed between March 15,  2011, and November 30 last year.

‘‘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,’’ Ms Pillay said.


‘‘The number of casualties is much higher than we expected, and is truly shocking. The failure of the international community, in particular the Security Council, to take concrete actions to stop the blood-letting shames us all. Collectively, we have fiddled at the edges while Syria burns.’’

Ms Pillay repeated her call for those responsible for the killings to be held accountable.

‘‘We must not compound the existing disaster by failing to prepare for the inevitable and very dangerous instability that will occur when the conflict ends,’’ she said.

Opposition activists said dozens were killed and injured in the attack by a Syrian government jet on a queue of cars waiting at a petrol station in the Damascus suburb of Mleiha.

Horrific amateur video posted online showed two columns of smoke billowing from the scene and more than a dozen vehicles on fire. The body of one man, engulfed in flames, was still seated on his motorbike in the queue, while a rescuer carried the torso of a man from the ruins.

Mleiha is a Sunni Muslim suburb, one of a number circling the capital that have been at the forefront of the 21-month revolt against  President Bashar al-Assad.  One witness, Abu Fouad, said the attack took place as a consignment of fuel arrived and crowds packed the station.

The British-based anti-regime   group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said ‘‘tens of people were killed or wounded’’. At least 10 bodies were seen in an amateur video. An activist who visited the site, Mohammed Saeed, said the missile made a crater a metre deep. 

‘‘Many of the people who were there were killed,’’ he said.  ‘‘Body parts could be seen on the ground.’’

Guardian News and Media