Wednesday, October 16, 2013


We issue our regular monthly report on Syrian war dead from the NCF's chief Syria analyst, Shree Wood. We record just under 3,000 as having been killed in the last month, we have data for (August) of whom just under 1,200 were combatants. Shree's report follows below and includes background reference to the casualty figures for the chemical attacks in Damascus. Full background data in detail compiled by the NCF and analysing all available data on a day to day basis can be found on this link.

The line graph below is a timeline which helps to depict the rise and decline in the death figures over the last 13 months from August 2012 to August 2013.

Civilian casualty figures for August are higher as a result of the 21st August attacks as well as indiscriminate shelling of residential areas, something the rebels and Assad government are guilty of. The chemical attacks on 21st August resulted in a great deal of controversy in terms of casualty figures. Within hours of the attack, dozens of videos were uploaded onto several websites showing men,women and children displaying symptoms consistent with exposure to a nerve agent, such as shortness of breath, nausea, irritation of the eyes and nose, disorientation, seizures and loss of consciousness. The videos also showed bodies being laud out in halls, clinics and in the streets.

Different figures from various organisation that have been quoted in the media have different death tolls. Many of the larger numbers appear to have little or no photographic or video evidence to back them up. It has been rather difficult in general to establish an accurate death toll. The lack of NGOs on the ground, the chaos surrounding the attacks of the 21st and question-ability of the videos made it extremely hard to determine the numbers.
Death toll
The Next Century Foundation
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
The Local Coordination Committee
Syrian Shuhada
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) 
French Intelligence Assessment
United States Government 
Violations Documentation Centre

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claims it only counts victims identified by name. The humanitarian group Doctors without Borders says it has not been able to update its initial estimate of 355 killed because communication with those on the ground around Damascus is difficult. That estimate was based on reports from three hospitals in the area supported by the group.

The NCF released a report on the chemical attacks last month which concluded that Sarin as was used during an extensive attack on a Damascus suburb early on the morning of 21st August. While the available evidence suggests Syrian government culpability, without additional information concerning the identity and types of the weapons used and a clearer indication of the trajectories of the artillery shells, rockets or mortars deployed, it is not currently possible to rule out other scenarios. The United Nations report on the subject has too much key information redacted to be regarded as credible. In the absence of clarifying information as to how the total of 1429 victims cited by one government was reached, the NCF believes that the figure of 394 is correct, which does not lessen the impact of this event as one of the singular horrors of an especially brutal conflict. 

The 1,429 death toll was released by the White House and was called a "preliminary assessment."  Administration officials said that the estimate was based on intelligence analysis and "never meant to be fixed in stone." Moreever, they expect the ultimate toll will be higher. Then on September 9, White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice, rounded down the figures, saying that "more than 1,400" were killed, including"more than 400 children." 

There is plenty of circumstantial evidence but no direct evidence linking the guilty parties. The US also maintained that it intercepted communications from a senior Syrian official allegedly ordering Syrian military personnel to prepare for chemical weapons attack by readying gas masks but no transcript has been produced. The US government maintains that its evidence is classified and only available to members of the Congress and key allies. NGOs and governments are continuing to question the US's numbers and urge them to release the information its toll is based on. 

The Syrian government has not pledged to destroy its entire stockpile of chemical weapons and to sign up to the Chemical Weapons Convention which outlaws the production and use of chemical weapons. 

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