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Syrian toll now at 70,000, expected to rise much higher

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 13th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Approximately 70,000 people have died in Syria's civil war, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. She made the announcement on Thursday and has previously blamed international inaction as the reason why so many are now dead.

NEW YORK, NY (Catholic Online) - Just over a month ago, Pillay set the number of dead in Syria around 60,000 and referred to the statistic as "truly shocking." She explained that 60,000 is equivalent to the population of Terre Haute, Indiana, and Chyenne, Wyoming.

The number tops the 50,000 Americans who died in Vietnam.

The war in Syria has been especially vicious and bloody, after that country's March 2011, Arab Spring revolution. Assad went swiftly to war with his own people, deploying tanks, aircraft, and artillery against civilians. He also employed militias who have perpetrated considerable violence against the people.

Atrocities have been committed on both sides.

Unfortunately, the civilians, particularly the children, have suffered greatly as they are left without basic utilities or healthcare. Even satisfying basic needs like clean drinking water and heat against the winter cold, have been difficult to obtain. Many children who enjoyed lives that could easily be compared to a middle-class life in the United States, now live in squalor, huddled in refugee camps - if they're lucky.

Perhaps nearly a million people have fled the country as essential services are impossible to obtain and analysts fear another million could flee over the next year. The outpouring of refugees is causing an epic humanitarian disaster as even those living in refugee camps do not always get the sustenance they need.

The nature of the conflict lends itself better to disaster than most. Casualties can come from anywhere as there are few lines drawn in the conflict. Rebel-occupied areas, even strongholds and cities, can sometimes be hit by militias or Assad aircraft, causing casualties across the nation. Many cities and villages still support Assad, even though he has been denounced by much of the world.

Both sides have reached a virtual stalemate with rebel forces enjoying only marginal victories at best.

Time and again, experts have predicted the end of Assad and the cessation of hostilities, yet no prediction has come true as Assad manages to retain power, even after suffering high-level defections.

The conflict in Syria has been especially prolonged by the lack of international support, despite pleas for help from Syrian rebels. Plans to establish a no-fly zone were quickly squashed when Russia and China, both staunch Assad allies, warned that western intervention aimed at regime change in Syria would meet with a firm response.

Meanwhile, Americans have grown weary of war and little political capital has been available to support U.S. intervention there.

Tragically, the death toll will rise as disease and malnutrition inevitably turn into bigger killers than bullets. Even if the conflict were to end today, the death toll would continue to rise, at least until the country restores basic infrastructure.

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