More than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria’s uprising, a monitoring group has said, as a proposed Geneva peace conference looked set to be delayed, dimming hopes for an end to the bloodshed.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists and officials on the ground for its information, said on Wednesday that the death toll from the civil war was now 100,191 people.
The toll is a testament to the levels of violence wracking the country, which has been ravaged by the conflict that broke out in March 2011 with peaceful demonstrations calling for regime change.
Despite the violence, a US-Russian proposal dubbed Geneva 2 that would bring rebels and regime representatives to the negotiating table has yet to bear any fruit.
Meanwhile, Syrian forces took full control of Tel Kalakh near the border with Lebanon on Wednesday, driving out opposition fighters and ending an unofficial truce under which it had allowed a small rebel presence to remain for several months.
The fall of Tel Kalakh, three km from the border with Lebanon, marks another gain for Assad after the capture of the rebel stronghold of Qusayr this month.
Like Qusayr, Tel Kalakh was used by rebels in the early stages of the conflict as a transit point for weapons and fighters smuggled into Syria to join the fight against Assad.
“Terrorist groups infiltrated and terrorised the local people,” an army officer said in a video posted online.
“In response to the request of the local people, the army entered Tel Kalakh to cleanse the area and restore security.”
The Observatory, a pro-opposition monitoring group, said rebels left the town on Tuesday, retreating towards the nearby Crusader fort of Crac des Chevaliers.
Six months ago, Assad’s opponents were challenging the president’s grip on parts of Damascus, but are now under fierce military pressure there, while their supply lines from neighbouring Jordan and Lebanon have steadily been choked off.
‘This is not Libya’
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday ruled out a military solution for Syria, saying its conflict does not resemble Libya’s while calling for a settlement based on last year’s Geneva peace plan.
“This is not Libya. It is very different in many, many ways,” Kerry told reporters in Kuwait City in response to a question on why there had been no military intervention in Syria as during Libya’s 2011 armed uprising.
He said that unlike Libya, foreign forces including the Lebanese movement Hezbollah had intervened in Syria, while Russia was supplying the regime with arms.
Kerry warned the fighting in Syria could lead to the destruction of the state, the collapse of the army and a total breakdown of a sectarian strife for many years to come.
“That becomes far more dangerous for all the region because it will empower extremists… and the potential increase of terrorism,” he said.
“There is no military solution here… We need to reach out for a diplomatic solution” through negotiations in the Swiss city of Geneva, said Kerry.