Damascus – The death toll in Syria's civil war has topped 45,000, a watchdog said Wednesday, as a new push by peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table appeared to have failed.
At least anther 20 people including eight children were killed in tank shelling of a farming village in the north of the country, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The grim statistics added gravity to a UN warning that Syrians are losing hope of any end to the bloodletting and that the humanitarian situation across the country is rapidly deteriorating.
“In all we have documented the deaths of 45,048 people,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP, adding that more than 1,000 people were killed in the past week alone.
The Observatory, which relies on a network of medics and activists on the ground, said the actual number of people killed since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's regime erupted in March last year could be as high as 100,000, with both sides concealing many of their casualties.
The Britain-based watchdog reported fierce army shelling of a farming area in a village in the northern province of Raqa on Wednesday.
“At least 20 people, among them eight children and three women, were killed in shelling by regime forces of farmlands in Kahtaniyeh village, west of the city of Raqa,” said the Observatory.
Amateur video posted online by activists showed several bloodied bodies, including at least one of a child, laid out on blankets in a house.
Raqa has seen an escalation of violence in recent months as rebels have launched an assault to seize several areas of the province, strategically located on the Turkish border.
The Observatory also reported new clashes in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk in southern Damascus, the scene of fierce fighting last week.
Violence first broke out in Yarmuk – home to some 150,000 people – as regime warplanes were reported to have carried out an air strike on the camp on December 16, killing at least eight people.
Elsewhere, the army took control of three Alawite villages in the central province of Hama, among them Maan, large swathes of which were overrun by jihadists two days earlier, said the Observatory.
Brahimi arrived in Syria on Sunday to push a new initiative aimed at ending the bloodshed and getting the regime and opposition to the negotiating table.
A UN Security Council diplomat, however, said the veteran Algerian diplomat had received no support from any of the warring parties.
“Assad appears to have stonewalled Brahimi again, the UN Security Council is not even close to showing the envoy the kind of support he needs and the rebels will not now compromise,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
Opposition activists also blasted Brahimi.
“Brahimi's arrival in Damascus to discuss a new political initiative to solve the crisis caused by the regime... has not put a stop... to massacres,” said the Local Coordination Committees, a grassroots network of anti-regime activists.
A French daily has reported a supposed US-Russian initiative for a transition in Syria, causing rage among opponents who reject any compromise with the regime.
Le Figaro said a solution in the offing would involve Assad staying in power until 2014 while preventing him from further renewing his mandate.
The United Nations said worse was to come inside Syria.
With four million people in need of aid inside Syria and well over 500,000 registered as refugees outside, “it's becoming more and more difficult just to do the very basic things to help people to survive,” John Ging, a top UN relief official, said in New York on Tuesday.
“People are losing hope because they just see more violence on the horizon, they just see a deterioration.”
Analysts said only a few in Assad's regime now controlled power.
“Power has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of just a few people in Assad's clan, which has grown autistic and seems to have chosen to just keep going,” Paris-based expert Karim Bitar told AFP.
“Bashar, who runs the show, only listens to people who owe him, for the most part, for their rise,” said another analyst on condition of anonymity. – Sapa-AFP