More than 45,000 people have been killed in Syria since the outbreak in March 2011 of an anti-regime revolt that became a bloody insurgency after a brutal crackdown on dissent, activists said Wednesday.
"In all, we have documented the deaths of 45,048 people," Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that more than 1,000 people were killed in the last week itself.
- Assad said to be stocking up on artillery
Giving a breakdown, he said those killed included "31,544 civilians, 1,511 defectors, 11,217 soldiers and 776 unidentified bodies."
The Observatory, which relies on a network of medics and activists on the ground, counts non-military combatants who have taken up arms against the regime as civilians.
The actual number of people killed in Syria's spiraling conflict is likely much higher. "We believe the real number could be as high as 100,000," Abdel Rahman said.
"Many of the thousands missing in jails are feared dead. Both the army and rebel fighters are concealing many of their casualties," he added.
Graves in Syria (Photo: Reuters)
The Observatory does not include in its toll thousands of shabiha – the pro-regime militiamen – people believed to be informants for the state, or foreign fighters who have joined the anti-regime insurgency.
The international community seems to be struggling to form a united position on Syria. The London-based Arab newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat quoted on Wednesday a Syrian defector, who served in Assad's chemical warfare division, as saying that the Homs bombing in which sarin-like gas was used, was Assad's way of testing the waters vis-à-vis the international community.
The US, EU, NATO and the UN have all warned the Syrian president that using chemical weapons on civilians would carry serious international consequences.
The defector, identified in the report as Abd al-Salam Abd al-Razaq, said that a chemical weapon was used in the shelling, and that "using the gas in Homs was Assad's way of feeling the international community's pulse on the matter."
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