UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations on Tuesday said “well over 7,500 people” have been killed in Syria during an 11-month government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, raising its previous estimated death toll by nearly a third.
UN Under-Secretary-General for political affairs Lynn Pascoe told the UN Security Council that the firepower of the opposition forces appeared to be minimal compared to the heavy weapons being used by the Syrian army.
“While we cannot give exact casualty figures there are credible reports that the death toll now often exceeds 100 civilians a day, including many women and children. The total killed so far is certainly well over 7,500 people,” Pascoe said.
Syrian authorities on Feb. 15 put the death toll at 3,838 – 2,493 civilians and 1,345 soldiers and police officers, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Tuesday during a debate at the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in Geneva.
The last UN estimate had the death toll at over 5,400.
The outside world has proved powerless to halt the killing in Syria, where repression of initially peaceful protests has spawned an armed insurrection. Russia and China have twice used their vetoes to block any action by the UN Security Council.
“Unfortunately the international community has also failed in its duty to stop the carnage and actions and inactions to date have seemed to encourage the regime in its belief that it has impunity to carry on wanton destruction of its own civilians,” Pascoe said.
Pascoe’s comments came as France announced that there would be a third attempt by the UN Security Council to pass a resolution on Syria, this time specifically to address the humanitarian crisis.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, speaking on Swiss television on Monday night at the end of a visit to Geneva, said: “Nearly 8,000 people have been killed, including hundreds of children.”
Pascoe said about 25,000 Syrian refugees have registered with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) in neighboring countries and as many as 200,000 people have been internally displaced in the country.
He described the situation as “increasingly dire” for people trapped in besieged towns, such as Homs and Hama. “According to human rights organizations more than 5,000 civilians have been prevented from fleeing by government forces,” Pascoe said.
“The humanitarian consequences of the violence have become severe. In towns affected by sustained fighting . . . their water and electricity have been cut off. Access to medical care and basic food and fuel are critically needed,” he said.
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, now the new UN-Arab League envoy on Syria, was due to meet U.S. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York on Wednesday, Pascoe said.
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