Two activist groups disclosed yesterday that about 5,000 people were killed in Syria's escalating civil war last month while the United Nations Children's Fund put the death toll for last week alone at 1,600. They were the highest figures reported since the uprising began more than 17 months ago.
The activist groups also raised their estimated death tolls for the entire uprising to at least 23,000 and as high as 26,000. The previous estimates, more than a month ago, were around 20,000.
The civil war witnessed a major turning point in August when President Bashar Assad's forces began widely using air power for the first time to crush the revolt. The fighting also reached Syria's largest city, Aleppo, which had been relatively quiet for most of the revolt.
"The past month witnessed large massacres and the regime was conducting wide operations to try to crush the uprising," said Omar Idilbi, a Cairo-based activist with the Local Coordination Committees (LCC). "Last month's acts of violence were unprecedented."
He said the increased use of the air force and artillery bombardments was behind the rise in casualties.
The Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 5,440 people, including 4,114 civilians were killed in August. The LCC put the toll at 4,933 civilians.
On Thursday, Human Rights Watch said government forces have killed scores of civilians over the past three weeks by bombarding at least 10 areas where they were lining up to buy bread at bakeries near and around Aleppo.