A man walks on the rubble of damaged buildings in the rebel-controlled area of Jobar, a suburb of Damascus, Syria. Picture: REUTERS
A man walks on the rubble of damaged buildings in the rebel-controlled area of Jobar, a suburb of Damascus, Syria. Picture: REUTERS

Beirut — The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitor, said on Monday about 511,000 people had been killed in the Syrian war since it began seven years ago.

The observatory, which tracks death tolls using a network of contacts inside Syria, said it had identified more than 350,000 of those killed. The remainder were cases where it knew deaths had occurred but did not know the victims’ names.

The conflict began after mass protests on March 15 2011, dragging in regional and global powers and forcing millions of people — more than half the prewar population — to flee their homes.

About 85% of the dead were civilians killed by the forces of the Syrian government and its allies, the observatory said. The Syrian military, joined by its ally Russia since 2015, has used air power extensively.

The UN children’s agency Unicef reported on Monday a 50% increase in the number of children killed in the conflict in 2017 compared with the previous year.

It added that 2018 was off to an even worse start.

More than 200 children had been killed in bombardment of the rebel-held enclave of eastern Ghouta by the Syrian regime and allied forces since February, the observatory said.

The monitoring group said children accounted for about 20% of all civilian victims of the assault.

The UN agency quoted a child from southern Syria named Sami, who is now a refugee in Jordan.

"I went outside to play in the snow with my cousins. A bomb hit. I saw my cousin’s hands flying in front of me. I lost both my legs," he said.

Disabled children "face a very real risk of being neglected and stigmatised as the unrelenting conflict continues", Unicef regional director Geert Cappelaere said.

The agency estimated that 3.3-million children were exposed to explosive hazards across the war-torn country. Dozens of schools were hit in 2017 alone.

Reuters, AFP

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