Death toll in Syria close to half a million

Sectarian strife likely to continue for the foreseeable future, expert tells ‘Post’

A Syrian refugee child looks on, moments after arriving on a raft with other Syrian refugees on a beach on the Greek island of Lesbos (photo credit: REUTERS)
A Syrian refugee child looks on, moments after arriving on a raft with other Syrian refugees on a beach on the Greek island of Lesbos
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In five years of civil war, some 400,000 Syrians have been killed and another 70,000 have perished due to a lack of basics such as clean water and healthcare, The Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday.
With those wounded in the conflict, that amounts to more than 11 percent of the population, it said, citing the Syrian Center for Policy Research.
It said 1.9 million people had been wounded. Life expectancy dropped from 70 in 2010 to 55.4 in 2015. Overall economic losses are estimated at $255 billion, the Guardian said.
Joel Parker, a researcher on Syria at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, told The Jerusalem Post that if and when the Islamic State is rolled back, whatever oil resources are left will not be able to sustain any kind of rebuilding effort.
“Moreover, any major rebuilding effort would probably have to be undertaken by large international firms, such as the Saudi Arabian ones that helped rebuild parts of Beirut after the end of the Lebanese Civil War,” he said.
This could lead to rebuilding efforts that will continue to be carried out along geographic lines, assuming the conflict will end in the near future, added Parker.
“Since few countries would want to invest in Syria for economic benefit, the likely scenario is that only countries with a strategic interest in having influence over Syria will play a major role in the clean-up and rebuilding of Syria.”
Therefore, he continued, it is “likely that Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran, will continue to vie for influence in whatever form of rebuilding effort is taken,” though they are unlikely to cooperate.
And if President Bashar Assad’s regime ends up defeating the Syrian rebels, “it is unlikely that Turkey, the Gulf states, or even the West would line up to help rebuild the country,” but that Iran and Russia would.
In any case, predicted Parker, the sectarian strife is likely to continue for the foreseeable future, making rebuilding unviable as the country “remains depopulated, destroyed, and dangerous.”
Meanwhile, a military offensive by Syrian government and allied forces has cut off 120,000 people in the northern Homs governorate since mid-January, worsening hunger and killing patients unable to get to medical care, a UN report said on Thursday.
“There are reports of increasingly acute shortages of food, basic commodities, medical items and fuel in the area. With the irregular supply routes used until mid-January now cut off, food items that are still available are now being sold at much higher prices,” said the report by the UN office.
Bread prices are already 10 times higher than in the city of Homs, and unaffordable for most families.
The Northern Homs Governorate is mostly farming land, but the fields yield little in winter and hunger is expected to spike in the next two weeks, the report said.
Basic medical supplies are also in short supply, the report said, noting dialysis patients in rural Homs were unable to access lifesaving treatment and 14 out of 34 cancer patients in the area had reportedly died due to lack of medical care.
The last UN aid convoy reached northern Homs in October 2015. The UN has been trying to send additional supplies since then, but has been unable to get approval.
The two enclaves are controlled by opposition groups and lie between the cities of Homs and Hama in a pocket of land close to Syria’s north-south highway that links most of its main cities and the Mediterranean provinces that are the homeland of Assad’s Alawite minority.
There are 90,000 people in one enclave around the towns of Rastan and Talbiseh and a further 30,000 in another around Houla.
The severing of the supply lines has stopped UN food supplies reaching the enclaves, where 12.7% of children and 25% of pregnant women are suffering from malnutrition, much higher than the national average of 4.9%, the UN said.
The area has been targeted by air strikes and shelling since the end of October.
There has been no electricity since then, and no pumped drinking water in Rastan and Talbiseh.