Deaths in Syria down from peak; army casualties outpacing rebels’

McClatchy NewspapersNovember 6, 2012 

— The death toll among rebels and civilians in Syria dropped 16 percent in October compared with August, the deadliest month of the conflict to date, though the number is still more than three times higher than it was in the last month of a U.N.-brokered cease-fire earlier this year, according to statistics that a Syrian human rights group compiled.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights, which works with activists and researchers in Syria to document deaths among rebels and civilians, reported 4,532 deaths for October. That was fewer than the 5,385 recorded in August and lower than September’s 4,631, but still far above the 1,344 reported in May, before the rebels renounced a U.N. cease-fire that had gone into effect April 12.

There’s no official death toll for the bloody conflict. The United Nations quit trying to track deaths earlier this year, citing inadequate information, and the Syrian government stopped reporting its own casualties via the official Syrian Arab News Agency in June after months of rising tolls among police and security forces.

That leaves it to groups such as the Syrian Network for Human Rights and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which also reports government casualties. Both those groups are sympathetic to the rebels, and they often count rebels killed as civilians, leaving their numbers open to debate. Still, their monthly totals provide a view of the conflict that reflects the trajectory of the violence better than news reports focused on the daily mayhem do.

The October death toll shows, for example, that the Damascus area remains the most violent in the country, while violence has dropped in Aleppo province in the last month and surged in Idlib province, to the west.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which provides the only look at government casualties, found that for the months of September and October combined, government deaths outpaced rebel deaths by 2,277 to 1,650.

Of those dead rebels, only a small percentage were former Syrian soldiers, the human rights group said.

The Syrian Network for Human Rights’ casualty report showed 1,541 deaths in the Damascus area, down slightly from September’s 1,597. In Aleppo province, which includes the country’s largest city and the smaller urban areas that surround it, 780 people died in October, down from September’s 1,060.

Another 720 deaths were reported in Idlib province, where rebels are attempting to create a larger no-go zone for government forces along the country’s border with Turkey; in September, the Idlib toll was 338.

Even as overall civilian deaths fell in October, the Syrian Network for Human Rights counted 757 women and children among the dead, nearly double those killed in September.

It’s likely that more than 40,000 civilians and fighters on both sides have died violently since March 2011, when the conflict began.

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