U.N. lifts Syria death toll to “truly shocking” 60,000

AMMAN/GENEVA, (Reuters) – More than 60,000 people have died in Syria’s uprising and civil war, the United Nations said yesterday, dramatically raising the death toll in a struggle that shows no sign of ending.

In the latest violence, dozens were killed in a rebellious Damascus suburb when a government air strike turned a petrol station into an inferno, incinerating drivers who had rushed there for a rare chance to fill their tanks, activists said.

“I counted at least 30 bodies. They were either burnt or dismembered,” said Abu Saeed, an activist who arrived in the area an hour after the 1 p.m. (1100 GMT) raid in Muleiha, a suburb on the eastern edge of the capital.

In the north, rebels launched a major attack to take a military airport, and said they had succeeded in destroying a fighter plane and a helicopter on the ground.

U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said in Geneva that researchers cross-referencing seven sources over five months of analysis had listed 59,648 people killed in Syria between March 15, 2011 and Nov. 30, 2012. “The number of casualties is much higher than we expected and is truly shocking,” she said. “Given that 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.”

There was no breakdown by ethnicity or information about whether the dead were rebels, soldiers or civilians. There was also no estimate of an upper limit of the possible toll.

Previously, the opposition-linked Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group had put the toll at around 45,000 confirmed dead but said the real number was likely to be higher.

Video footage taken by activists at the scene of the air strike on the petrol station showed the body of a man in a helmet still perched on a motorcycle amid flames engulfing the scene. Another man was shown carrying a dismembered body.

The video could not be verified. The government bars access to the Damascus area to most international media.

The activists said rockets were fired from a nearby government air base at the petrol station and a residential area after the air raid. “Until the raid, Muleiha was quiet. We have been without petrol for four days and people from the town and the countryside rushed to the station when a state consignment came in,” Abu Fouad, another activist at the scene, said by phone.

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