The line graph below is a timeline which helps to depict the rise and decline in the death figures over the last 10 months.
NCF figures for war dead are collected on a monthly basis from 6 different sources. March 2013 was the “bloodiest” month this year, with April not too far behind. Rebels and government soldiers continue to fight over crucial military bases, checkpoints and towns. Civilian figures continue to be high as they are caught in the crossfire - especially since the two biggest cities, Aleppo and Damascus have been caught up in the violence. Numbers for rebel and government combatants killed are the least well documented; there is limited information available on these two groups.
It is becoming increasingly hard to collect and verify these numbers as many human rights groups including the UN have stopped reporting Syrian casualty figures on the ground as the fighting made it unsafe for them to continue. Despite the escalation in violence since 2011, international organisations (both outside and inside Syria) have continued with to attempt to estimate death tolls.
According to the UN, over 93, 000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict, with an average of 5,000 people losing their lives per month. This tallies loosely with NCF figures. Out of these, over 80% are men (understandably since about half the dead are combatants). The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated that the deaths of over 1, 700 children under the age of ten has also been documented. Both opposition groups and the government have been accused of using children as human shields or in combat.
On 28th May, following intense pressure from Britain and France, the EU lifted the arms embargo onSyria. The declaration came twelve hours after the EU summit in Brussels. However, there is no immediate decision to send European weaponry to Syria and all other sanctions will remain in force. EU states can dictate their own policy on sending weapons to Syria but have agreed to not “proceed at this stage with the delivery” of arms. From May 2011 to May 2013, the EU imposed a full weapons embargo on Syria.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague released a statement on the 28th of May, “Tonight EU (European Union) nations agreed to bring the arms embargo on the Syrian opposition to an end. This was the outcome that the United Kingdom wanted. It was a difficult decision for some countries, but it was necessary and right to reinforce international efforts to reach a diplomatic solution to the conflict inSyria.”
Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition and BBC have claimed that 200 people have been killed in a massacre in towns in Western Syria after the arrival of government troops. The Syrian government responded claiming that the operation was a “strike against terrorists.”
Although it will take awhile for the lifting of the sanction on weapons to have any effect on the fighting in Syria, Britain and France hope that the decision itself will send a strong message to the Al Assad government that it is time to hand over power. But the Syrian government has been extremely resilient and determined from the beginning, and this is unlikely to happen. The BBC’s Jim Muir stated that “it is clear that the EU decision will not make much difference on the ground in the immediate future.”
The European Union Foreign Affairs Council will review the decision before 1st August. There are massive arguments that the lifting of the arms embargo will do more evil than good.
On 14th June 2013, President Obama authorised the decision to send weapons to Syrian rebels for the first time. The US government stated that the use of chemical weapons was the main trigger for the decision.
Russia's reaction to the US government’s decision to send arms has been decidedly cool. The Russian President expressed barely contained anger in reaction to remarks by the British Premier this evening - Putin described the rebels as barbarians in the most graphic terms possible.