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UN: Syria Death Toll Rises Above 3,000

The UN says "excessive force" has been used to crush protests in Syria, resulting in thousands of deaths.
The death toll in Syria has risen to over 3,000 as violence there continues on a daily basis.

The latest figures come from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who has been tracking Syria's antigovernment protests since they began in mid-March.

Navi Pillay said the dead include at least 187 children.

Releasing the figures in a statement from Geneva on October 14, Pillay expressed deep dismay at what she termed the "remorseless toll of human lives."

And -- noting that 100 people have been reported killed in the last 10 days alone -- she called for international action to avoid "full-blown civil war" in the country.

The urgent call comes as violence in Syria increasingly moves from government crackdowns on protesters to also include shootouts between troops loyal to the government and deserting soldiers who oppose it.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 10 civilians were killed in northern Idlib Province on October 13 when government troops stormed the town of Binish and fought battles with gunmen and army deserters.

The government confirmed there was fighting in the regions of Idlib and the central province of Homs and said 10 security officials had been killed and 19 others wounded in what it called an ambush by "an armed terrorist group."

On October 14, the Syrian opposition called for a day of protest across the country to honor army officers and soldiers who have defected to join the ranks of the pro-democracy movement.

The Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook group, which is the organizing force behind many demonstrations, dubbed October 14 "The Friday of the Free Army."

Since the protests began six months ago, thousands of Syrians have poured into the streets every Friday to shout slogans against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The protests, which began with calls for reforms, have turned into demands for the government to step down as the numbers of those killed by security forces has soared.

Gulf Cooperation Council Calls For Emergency Meeting

The spiraling violence is creating a crisis atmosphere throughout the Middle East, where Syria's neighbors are watching what many fear will become its steady slide into chaos.

On October 14, the oil-rich Persian Gulf states called for an emergency meeting of all Arab foreign ministers to again urge Damascus to find a peaceful end to the standoff.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay
The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council said the ministers' meeting should address "steps that could help end the bloodshed and halt the machine of violence." A date for the meeting has not yet been set.

Arab foreign ministers already met in Cairo a month ago -- on September 13 – and called on the Syrian authorities to "immediately stop the bloodshed." But the call resulted in no changes in Damascus's use of force against the protesters.

Assessing the situation in Syria on October 14, Pillay again sharply criticized the Syrian authorities for using excessive force.

"Since the start of the uprising in Syria, the Government has consistently used excessive force to crush peaceful protests," Pillay said. "Sniping from rooftops, and indiscriminate use of force against peaceful protesters -- including the use of live ammunition and the shelling of residential neighborhoods -- have become routine occurrences in many Syrian cities."

She also noted that security forces have targeted protesters' family members inside and outside the country for harassment, intimidation, threats, and beatings.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on the Security Council in August to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.

It said the referral was necessary because there were credible allegations of crimes against humanity in Syria.

compiled from agency reports