Syria death toll tops 380,000 in almost 9-year war, says monitor

A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on January 2, 2020 shows Syrian government forces firing at positions of rebel fighters in the countryside of Maaret al-Numan. (AFP)
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Updated 05 January 2020

Syria death toll tops 380,000 in almost 9-year war, says monitor

  • The total death toll does not include some 88,000 people who died of torture in regime jails, or thousands missing after being abducted by all sides in the conflict

BEIRUT: Almost nine years of civil war in Syria has left more than 380,000 people dead including over 115,000 civilians, a war monitor said in a new toll on Saturday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of sources across the country, said they included around 22,000 children and more than 13,000 women.
The conflict flared after unprecedented anti-government protests in the southern city of Daraa on March 15, 2011.
Demonstrations spread across Syria and were brutally suppressed by the regime, triggering a multi-front armed conflict that has drawn in rebels and foreign powers.
The conflict has displaced or sent into exile around 13 million Syrians, causing billions of dollars’ worth of destruction.
The Britain-based Observatory’s last casualty toll on the Syrian conflict, issued in March last year, stood at more than 370,000 dead.
The latest toll included more than 128,000 Syrian and non-Syrian pro-regime fighters.
More than half of those were Syrian soldiers, while 1,682 were from the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah whose members have been fighting in Syria since 2013.
The war has also taken the lives of more than 69,000 opposition rebels and Kurdish-led fighters.
It has killed more than 67,000 militants, mainly from Daesh and Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), a group dominated by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

NUMBER

13m - Syrians have been displaced or sent into exile due to the conflict that has caused billions of dollars’ worth of destruction.

The total death toll does not include some 88,000 people who died of torture in regime jails, or thousands missing after being abducted by all sides in the conflict.
With the support of powerful allies Russia and Iran, Syria’s Bashar Assad has inched his way back in recent years to controlling almost two-thirds of the country.
That comes after a string of victories against fighters and rebels since 2015, but also his forces being deployed to parts of the northeast of the country under a deal to halt a Turkish cross-border operation last year.
Several parts of the country, however, remain beyond the reach of the Damascus government.
They include the last major opposition bastion of Idlib, a region of some 3 million people that is ruled by the rebels of HTS.
An escalation in violence there in recent weeks has caused 284,000 people to flee their homes, according to the UN.
In the northeast, Turkish troops and their proxies control a strip of land along the border after seizing it from Kurdish fighters earlier this year.
Kurdish-led forces control the Far East Syria, where US troops have been deployed near major oil fields.
Syria’s conflict is estimated to have set its economy back three decades, destroying infrastructure and paralyzing the production of electricity and oil.

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‘No way we can rebuild’: Lebanese count huge losses after Beirut blast

Updated 07 August 2020

‘No way we can rebuild’: Lebanese count huge losses after Beirut blast

  • The search for those missing since Tuesday’s blast intensified overnight, as rescuers sifted rubble in a frantic race to find anyone still alive after the explosion
  • The government has promised a full investigation and put several port employees under house arrest

BEIRUT: Beirut residents began trying to rebuild their shattered lives on Friday after the biggest blast in the Lebanese capital’s history tore into the city, killing at least 154 and leaving the heavily indebted nation with another huge reconstruction bill.
The search for those missing since Tuesday’s blast intensified overnight, as rescuers sifted rubble in a frantic race to find anyone still alive after the explosion smashed a swathe of the city and sent shockwaves around the region.
Security forces fired teargas at a furious crowd late on Thursday, as anger boiled over at the government and a political elite, who have presided over a nation that was facing economic collapse even before the deadly port blast injured 5,000 people.
The small crowd, some hurling stones, marked a return to the kind of protests that had become a feature of life in Beirut, as Lebanese watched their savings evaporate and currency disintegrate, while government decision-making floundered.

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“There is no way we can rebuild this house. Where is the state?” Tony Abdou, an unemployed 60-year-old, sitting in the family home in Gemmayze, a district that lies a few hundred meters from the port warehouses where highly explosive material was stored for years, a ticking time bomb next to a densely populated area.
As Abdou spoke, a domestic water boiler fell through the ceiling of his cracked home, while volunteers from the neighborhood turned out on the street to sweep up debris.
“Do we actually have a government here?” said taxi driver Nassim Abiaad, 66, whose cab was crushed by falling building wreckage just as he was about to get into the vehicle.
“There is no way to make money anymore,” he said.
The government has promised a full investigation and put several port employees under house arrest. State news agency NNA said 16 people were taken into custody. But for many Lebanese, the explosion was symptomatic of the years of neglect by the authorities while state corruption thrived.
Shockwaves
Officials have said the blast, whose seismic impact was recorded hundreds of miles (kilometers) away, might have caused losses amounting to $15 billion — a bill the country cannot pay when it has already defaulted on its mountain of national debt, exceeding 150% of economic output, and talks about a lifeline from the International Monetary Fund have stalled.
Hospitals, many heavily damaged as shockwaves ripped out windows and pulled down ceilings, have been overwhelmed by the number of casualties. Many were struggling to find enough foreign exchange to buy supplies before the explosion.
In the port area, rescue teams set up arc lights to work through the night in a dash to find those still missing, as families waited tensely, slowly losing hope of ever seeing loved ones again. Some victims were hurled into the sea because of the explosive force.
The weeping mother of one of the missing called a prime time TV program on Thursday night to plead with the authorities to find her son, Joe. He was found — dead — hours later.
Lebanese Red Cross Secretary General George Kettaneh told local radio VDL that three more bodies had been found in the search, while the health minister said on Friday the death toll had climbed to 154. Dozens are still unaccounted for.
Charbel Abreeni, who trained port employees, showed Reuters pictures on his phone of killed colleagues. He was sitting in a church where the head from the statue of the Virgin Mary had been blown off.
“I know 30 port employees who died, two of them are my close friends and a third is missing,” said the 62-year-old, whose home was wrecked in the blast. His shin was bandaged.
“I have nowhere to go except my wife’s family,” he said. “How can you survive here, the economy is zero?“
Offers of immediate medical and food aid have poured in from Arab states, Western nations and beyond. But none, so far, address the bigger challenges facing a bankrupt nation.
French President Emmanuel Macron came to the city on Thursday with a cargo from France. He promised to explain some “home truths” to the government, telling them they needed to root out corruption and deliver economic reforms.
He was greeted on the street by many Lebanese who asked for help in ensuring “regime” change, so a new set of politicians could rebuild Beirut and set the nation on a new course.
Beirut still bore scars from heavy shelling in the 1975-1990 civil war before the blast. After the explosion, chunks of the city once again look like a war zone.