More than 60,000 people have died since the start of Syria’s uprising, the United Nations said, surpassing Syrian opposition’s estimates by one-third.
The UN report blamed both sides for the violence, criticising the government for inflaming the conflict and rebel groups for killing unjustifiably.
“Given there has been no let-up in the conflict since the end of November, we can assume that more than 60,000 people have been killed by the beginning of 2013,” the UN’s High Commissioner Navi Pillay said in a statement.
“The number of casualties is much higher than we expected, and is truly shocking,” she added.
Syria has been hit by conflict for 22 months after peaceful protests calling for political change escalated into a full scale civil war. The UN international envoy for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, this week warned that as many as 100,000 people may be killed amid the worsening situation.
Prime Minister Wael Al Halaqi on December 31 said the fighting had affected the lives of all 3.3m Syrians and caused damaging totaling US$28bn.
The UN estimates that 59,648 people were killed in the conflict between March 15, 2011 and November 30, 2012. The figure significantly surpasses previous estimates by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has previously put the toll at around 45,000.
Pillay blamed both sides of the conflict, adding that acts by rebel forces and the government could be considered war crimes.
“This massive loss of life could have been avoided if the Syrian government had chosen to take a different path than one of ruthless suppression of what were initially peaceful and legitimate protests by unarmed civilians,” she said.
“As the situation has continued to degenerate, increasing numbers have also been killed by anti-government armed groups, and there has been a proliferation of serious crimes including war crimes, and - most probably - crimes against humanity, by both sides.”