BEIRUT

Middle East

Syrians die at record rate as leaders talk: activists

People gather at a site hit by what activists said was a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Haydariye district in Aleppo February 12, 2014. REUTERS/Hosam Katan

BEIRUT: While the Syrian government and rebels have been at peace talks in Geneva, Syrians have been killed at the fastest rate since the country slid into conflict in 2011, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday.

At least 4,959 people died in the three-week period between Jan. 22, when the first round of 'Geneva 2' peace talks began, and Feb. 11, the pro-opposition monitoring group said.

"After reaching the highest death toll since the revolution started, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights calls for the Geneva 2 talks to be suspended if (the talks do) not include an immediate halt to all military operations," said the British-based group, which uses a network of sources across Syria.

Rami Abdelrahman, the head of the Observatory, said an average of 236 people had died each day in that time period.

"This is the highest average we have had. At other periods of time, we might have had a day with an extremely high toll, but the next day would be lower," he told Reuters by telephone.

The Observatory estimated that nearly a third of those killed were civilians - at least 515 of those were women and children killed in air raids and artillery strikes.

Syria's nearly three-year conflict began as peaceful protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule but turned into an armed insurgency under a security force crackdown.

The fighting has since descended into civil war that has killed more than 130,000 people and forced more than 6 million to flee their homes.

 

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