GENEVA, Switzerland, Sept. 26 (UPI) — The Syrian regime’s crackdown against its opponents may quickly escalate into full-blown civil war, a U.N. humanitarian coordinator said.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates at least 2,700 people have been killed by Syrian security forces since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in mid-March. Syrian human rights groups say that’s a conservative estimate and Damascus says around 700 of those killed were soldiers.
U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Syria Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told the United Nations’ humanitarian news agency IRIN that civil war could break out in the country.
“We are not in a civil war yet but we will certainly be heading there unless something is done,” he said. “I would have rated this scenario very low in March. Today, it is quite a possibility.”
Ahmed condemned the “excessive” use of government force against civilians, adding the situation had the potential to create a refugee crisis. At least 18,000 Syrians have crossed the border into Turkey and at least 3,000 are living in villages in northern Lebanon.
Syrian opposition groups have called on the international community to ensure civilians are protected from government forces. Apart from strongly worded statements, the U.N. Security Council hasn’t acted formally against Syria. The International Crisis Group in a recent report said the reluctance to move against Syria is “unquestionably disastrous.”