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Activists: 343 dead highest for one day

Sept. 27, 2012 at 7:07 AM   |   Comments

DAMASCUS, Syria, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- The 343 people reported killed in one day in Syria is the highest daily toll since protests against President Bashar Assad's regime began, an activist said.

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria opposition group said 343 deaths were reported Wednesday, with one activist accusing the regime of committing genocide, CNN reported Thursday.

"The regime is escalating the violence at every possible opportunity and it is proof that it is determined to crush the revolution by any means necessary," Rafif Jouejati, spokeswoman for the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, told CNN.

The death toll is "horrific" but the world also needs to know that sexual torture and torture of children increased as well, Jouejati said.

"There is [a] systematic increase in the violence and the world powers, so far, have shown that they are not willing to do much beyond the same condemnations we have been hearing for the last 19 months."

The highest death count Wednesday occurred in the Damascus area, where LCC said 162 deaths were reported, including 107 in a reported massacre in Thiabieh.

Meanwhile, thousands of displaced Syrians are living in squalid conditions near the Turkish border, fleeing the violence of war in a spontaneous encampment, officials said.

Rebels from a local Free Syrian Army group estimated 5,500-6,000 people are living in olive groves not far from the border, with more arriving daily.

"I came here because my house was destroyed," Youssef Dabul, 30, who told CNN he once managed a restaurant in Aleppo, Syria's largest city. "I never imagined in all my life to come here and live under the olive trees."

Many of those in the encampment told similar stories of airstrikes, fighting and rocket fire that forced them to leave their homes.

Turkish officials said they have an open-door policy for their Syrian neighbors trying to escape the violence but they've been forced to turn back refugees for about a month due to a lack of camps, CNN reported.

"Our speed of constructing camps ... cannot compete with the pace of the violence of the Baath regime against its own people," Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Selcuk Unal told CNN in a telephone interview.

The refugee population in Turkey has ballooned to more than 87,000 people last month, officials said. Turkish authorities allow a few hundred refugees to enter each day.

"There is no policy change," another Turkish official said, speaking anonymously. "We intend to continue this policy of open door as long as we can. The thing is, our capabilities are being strained."

"We've started to extend humanitarian aid, food, medicine, to the zero point on the border," the official added. "That's the best we can do at the moment."

Since the unrest started in March 2011, more than 30,000 people have been killed, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The toll includes 21,534 civilians, 7,322 Syrian army forces and 1,168 defectors who joined the rebels, the group said. Previously, the United Nations and opposition groups estimated the number dead at 18,000-21,000. The tallies cannot be independently verified.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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