June 19, 2013
UN: Syria death toll reaches 70,000
Aleppo air base falls, Assad forces under pressure
BEIRUT — Syria’s intensifying civil war has probably killed over 9,000 people since the beginning of the year, bringing the likely death toll of the two-year-old conflict near 70,000, the UN human rights chief said yesterday.
At the beginning of January, less than six weeks ago, Navi Pillay said the death toll in Syria had exceeded 60,000, a figure she called “truly shocking” and much higher than the UN expected. That figure was a third higher than estimates by anti-regime activists at the time.
Opening a speech to a UN Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, Pillay recalled her announcement of 60,000 deaths in Syria and told members: “That figure is probably now approaching 70,000.”
She strongly criticized the UN’s most powerful body for its failure to end the killings.The Security Council has been deeply divided over the Syrian conflict, which began in March 2011 with protests calling for political change but has evolved into a full-scale civil war.
The US and its European allies have pushed for council action that would pressure President Bashar Assad to end the fighting, but Russia and China, allies of Syria, have vetoed three Western-backed resolutions. Syrian opposition fighters captured a military airport near the northern city of Aleppo yesterday in another military setback for President Bashar al-Assad’s forces which have come under intensifying attacks across the country. The airport is the latest military facility to fall under rebel control in a strategic region situated between Syria’s industrial and commercial centre and the country’s oil- and wheat-producing heartland to the east.
A Middle East-based diplomat said the opposition is making advances in Aleppo and along the Euphrates River to the east. He also said they are closing in on Damascus by breaking through the ring road and establishing footholds in the city centre.
A Syrian National Council opposition delegation was hit by a deadly minibus blast on Turkey’s border with Syria and appeared to be targeted, the group said yesterday, but the Turkish authorities said it was too early to apportion blame.
The minibus, bearing Syrian number plates, exploded at a crossing on the border near the Turkish town of Reyhanli on Monday, opposite the rebel-held Syrian gate of Bab al-Hawa, killing 14 people and wounding dozens more.
—Herald with AP, Reuters