Syria Deaths Hit New High in 2014, Observer Group Says
By RICK GLADSTONE and MOHAMMAD GHANNAM JAN. 1, 2015
Carrying milk for sale in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria. A monitoring group said over 3,500 children were among more than 76,000 civil war fatalities in 2014. Credit Mahmoud Hebbo/Reuters
More than 76,000 people died in Syria’s civil war in 2014, including more than 3,500 children, a monitoring group reported on Thursday. The figures would make last year the deadliest in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011.
The figures from the monitoring group, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, put the total number of dead in the conflict as of Wednesday at 206,603.
The group, based in Britain, uses a network of contacts inside Syria to tally casualties, and its figures cannot be independently corroborated. The United Nations, which once regularly documented the numbers of dead and wounded in Syria, discontinued the practice some time ago.
But the United Nations said in December that more than 200,000 people had been killed in the conflict, which began as an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad and has since evolved into a civil war that has destabilized the Middle East.
The Syrian Observatory’s 2014 casualty figures include 17,790 civilians, among them 3,501 children.
The rest include Syrian soldiers and allied militia members, rebel fighters and members of jihadist militant organizations that have joined the fighting.
The Syrian Observatory’s total of 76,021 deaths for 2014 compared with its total of 73,447 in 2013, 49,294 in 2012 and 7,841 in 2011.
The number of wounded in the Syria conflict has been even harder to determine, partly because of restricted access to combat zones and the collapse of the country’s public health system.
Last month, the World Health Organization’s Syria representative, Elizabeth Hoff, said the cumulative number of wounded was approximately one million.
Ms. Hoff made the estimate as part of a United Nations annual appeal for funding at a donors conference in Berlin. The organization said it was seeking $8.4 billion in 2015 to help nearly 18 million victims of Syria’s conflict, mostly displaced civilians and refugees.
The 2014 casualty figures were issued as Syria’s state-run news agency reported that Mr. Assad, in a New Year’s Eve morale-boosting gesture, had visited soldiers on the front lines in Jobar, an embattled suburb of Damascus. Images posted on the news agency’s website showed Mr. Assad, minus his signature mustache, greeting his troops.
Antigovernment activists said that they doubted that Mr. Assad had ventured into Jobar, which they said was contested or rebel-controlled, and that the images shown by the state media appeared to be from Zablatani, a government-held area nearby.
Some images showed a building with a sign that read Damascus Transportation Department, and several Damascus residents said they knew of such a building in Zablatani, not in Jobar.
Rick Gladstone reported from New York, and Mohammad Ghannam from Beirut, Lebanon.
A version of this article appears in print on January 2, 2015, on page A4 of the New York edition with the headline: Syria Deaths in 2014 Hit a New High, Group Says.