UN report says at least 60,000 have died in Syrian war - Irish Times, 030113

UN report says at least 60,000 have died in Syrian war


Syria’s uprising has claimed the lives of at least 60,000 people, according to a comprehensive UN study, significantly raising the estimated death toll and adding to pressure on world powers to stop the bloodshed.

Following what it described as “an exhaustive analysis carried out by data specialists” using seven sources, the UN human rights office compiled a list of 59,648 people killed since the start of the initially peaceful uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011 until the end of November 2012.

Entries that did not give the victim’s full name and the date and location of their death were excluded.

“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,” said Navi Pillay, UN human rights commissioner. “The number of casualties is much higher than we expected and is truly shocking.”

Where now for Syria as revolution for democracy becomes sectarian civil war? 30 December 2012 Patrick Cockburn Syria

Where now for Syria as revolution for democracy becomes sectarian civil war?
30 December 2012     Patrick Cockburn     Syria

The furies of civil war grow ever fiercer and the war has long ago reached the stage of what in Northern Ireland we used to call "the politics of the last atrocity".

By Patrick Cockburn
The Independent
29 December 2012

"Shame on you! Shame on The Independent!" boomed the voice of a Syrian intellectual in my phone half an hour after I had returned from Damascus to Beirut.

He was so incoherent in his rage that it was difficult to know his precise objections, but my sin seemed to be that I had been in Damascus, talked to members of the Syrian government and concluded that it was not going to collapse any time soon.

Our conversation was not of a high intellectual calibre. After an acerbic exchange, I asked why, if he felt so strongly, did he "not stop being rude to people like me, go to Aleppo and fight beside the rebels instead of spending all your time in the cafés of Beirut".

Shortly afterwards, there was a mutual clicking-off of mobiles.

Driving the short distance between Damascus and Beirut is like shifting from one planet to another. What seems obvious and commonsensical in the Syrian capital becomes controversial and a minority viewpoint over the border in Lebanon. Outside Syria there have been repeated media and diplomatic forecasts of imminent victory for the rebels and defeat for Bashar al-Assad. Ignored in this speculation is the important point that Assad's forces still hold, wholly or in large part, all the main cities and towns of Syria.

Syrian air strike kills dozens at bakery - Irish Times, 241212.

Syrian air strike kills dozens at bakery


Dozens of people were killed in an air strike while queuing for bread in Syria’s central Hama province yesterday, activists said, with some residents giving an initial count of 90 dead.

Such a toll, if confirmed, would make it one of the deadliest air strikes in Syria’s civil war.

Videos uploaded by activists showed dozens of bloodstained bodies crumpled in the street among piles of rubble and shrapnel.

“When I got there I could see piles of bodies all over the ground. There were women and children,” said Samer al-Hamawi, an activist in the town of Halfaya, where the strike hit a bakery. “There are also dozens of wounded.”

The west's intervention in Syria risks blowback and regional war. 19 December 2012, Seumas Milne, Syria

The west's intervention in Syria risks blowback and regional war
19 December 2012     Seumas Milne     Syria

Not only will more intervention by the western powers increase the death toll, it may not give them the control they crave either.

By Seumas Milne
The Guardian
19 December 2012

THE SIGNS ARE UNMISTAKABLE. Once again, the west is preparing to escalate military intervention in the Arab and Muslim world.

This time the target is Syria. Since the US presidential election, the warnings have multiplied. First, in a breathtaking reprise of the falsehood that paved the way for the invasion of Iraq, US and British leaders claimed the Syrian regime might be about to use chemical weapons against rebel forces, and threatened dire consequences.

Then the US authorised the stationing of Patriot missile batteries along the Turkish-Syrian border. Ostensibly intended to protect Turkey from stray Syrian artillery fire, they could rather more plausibly be used to help enforce a Libya-style no-fly zone.

There has since been a flurry of media briefings about increased covert US arms supplies and rebel training, along with plans for intensified intelligence and special forces deployment, or even all-out air and naval power support. Direct intervention, US and British officials are reported to insist, is "now inevitable".

Next Britain followed France in recognising the new opposition Syrian National Coalition, stitched together under Nato and Gulf tutelage, as the "sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people". Since the coalition clearly isn't the sole representative of Syrians, the declaration (which goes beyond even what was said during the Libyan war) sets a precedent that is likely to come back to haunt them. But it was followed by only a slightly less sweeping statement from the US and around 100 allies.

Syria slides from a fight for democracy and human rights into holy war 17 December 2012 Patrick Cockburn Syria

Syria slides from a fight for democracy and human rights into holy war
17 December 2012     Patrick Cockburn     Syria
Patrick Cockburn says the situation in areas of Syria he has visited is wholly different from the picture given to the world both by foreign leaders and by the foreign media.

By Patrick Cockburn
The Independent
16 December 2012

IT IS ONE OF THE MOST horrifying videos of the war in Syria.

It shows two men being beheaded by Syrian rebels, one of them by a child. He hacks with a machete at the neck of a middle-aged man who has been forced to lie in the street with his head on a concrete block.

At the end of the film, a soldier, apparently from the Free Syrian Army, holds up the severed heads by their hair in triumph.

The film is being widely watched on YouTube by Syrians, reinforcing their fears that Syria is imitating Iraq's descent into murderous warfare in the years after the US invasion in 2003. It fosters a belief among Syria's non-Sunni Muslim minorities, and Sunnis associated with the government as soldiers or civil servants, that there will be no safe future for them in Syria if the rebels win.

In one version of the video, several of which are circulating, the men who are beheaded are identified as officers belonging to the 2.5 million-strong Alawite community. This is the Shia sect to which President Bashar al-Assad and core members of his regime belong. The beheadings, so proudly filmed by the perpetrators, may well convince them that they have no alternative but to fight to the end.

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