(NEW YORK) -- The United Nations high commissioner for human rights announced on Wednesday that the death toll from the conflict in Syria that began in March 2011 now exceeds 60,000 victims.
This represents a huge increase in killings from a report issued by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights earlier this week that put the death toll from 22 months of fighting at 45,000.
U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay called his organization's casualty count "truly shocking" and heaped most of the blame on President Bashar al-Assad for what started as a crackdown on groups calling for democracy in Syria that evolved into a full-scale, sectarian civil war.
Pillay said the U.N. conducted an "exhaustive analysis" of the violence based on seven data sets, putting the number of dead at around 59,650 as of the end of November 2012. He indicated that the escalating hostilities last month certainly pushed the death toll well past 60,000.
Three cities alone -- Homs, Damascus and Idlib -- accounted for about half of those killed in the nearly two-year-long battle for control of Syria.
Pillay said he was concerned the death toll will grow much higher if there is no resolution to the crisis that major foreign powers seem powerless to stop.
However, the U.N. official was not letting them off the hook, lamenting, "The failure of the international community, in particular the Security Council, to take concrete actions to stop the bloodletting, shames us all."
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