President Bashar al-Assad
More than 60,000 people have died in the Syrian uprising and civil war, the United Nations said on Wednesday, dramatically raising the death toll in a struggle that shows no sign of ending.
Dozens were killed in a Damascus suburb when a government air strike turned a petrol station into an inferno, incinerating drivers who had rushed there for a rare chance to fill their tanks, activists said.
"I counted at least 30 bodies. They were either burnt or dismembered," said Abu Saeed, an activist who arrived at the area an hour after the raid occurred at 1:00 PM (1100 GMT) in Muleiha, a suburb on the eastern edge of the capital.
U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said in Geneva that researchers cross-referencing seven sources over five months of analysis had listed 59,648 people killed in Syria between March 15, 2011 and November 30, 2012, reports Reuters.
"The number of casualties is much higher than we expected and is truly shocking," she said. "Given that there has been no let-up in the conflict since the end of November, we can assume that more than 60,000 people have been killed by the beginning of 2013."
There was no breakdown by ethnicity or information about whether the dead were rebels, soldiers or civilians. There was also no estimate of an upper limit of the possible toll.
Previously, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, had put the toll at around 45,000 confirmed dead, but said the real number was likely to be much higher.
Mulaiha, the target of Wednesday's air strike, is a residential and industrial area in the eastern Ghouta region of Damascus that also houses a Syrian air defence base.
The activists said rockets were fired from the base at the petrol station and a nearby residential area after the air raid.
"Until the raid, Muleiha was quiet. We have been without petrol for four days and people from the town and the countryside rushed to the station when a state consignment came in," Abu Fouad, another activist at the scene, said by phone.
President Bashar al-Assad's forces control the centre of the capital, while rebels and their sympathizers hold a ring of southern and eastern suburbs that are often hit by air strikes.