A Grim Toll in Syria in 2014

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights issued a depressing summary of a year in death in Syria. According to its tracking of the many casualties of the ongoing conflict, the civil war in Syria claimed 76,021 lives in 2014, although its researchers acknowledged that figure is likely a deep undercount of the true toll. Even the conservative figures makes 2014 the deadliest year in Syria since the violence began in 2011. It comes as no surprise that the fractured nation's civilian population is enduring significant suffering. According to the observatory, 17,790 civilians, including 3,501 children and 1,987 women, died in 2014. "Worth noting," the group said, is that its tally does not include "thousands of detainees inside regime prisons and thousands of those who disappeared during regime raids and massacres," nor does it include "hundreds of regular soldiers and pro-regime militants and supporters captured by [Islamic State] fighters, Al-Nusra front, rebel and Islamic battalions on charge of 'dealing with the regime.'" The survey also does not include 3,000 civilians and fighters inside I.S. jails from Shaitaat tribe who were kidnapped by the Islamic State.

In a statement released on New Year's Day, the human rights group deplored the "silence of the international community for the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria." That silence, it argues, encourages the criminals to kill more and more Syrian people because they have not found anyone that [deters] them from continuing their crimes." The observatory's researchers add that 1,500,000 people have been wounded in the conflict, many of them suffering permanent disabilities. It adds that hundreds of thousands of children have been orphaned by the civil war, that more than half of Syria's people have been internally displaced or become refugees and that the nation's infrastructure and public and private properties continue to be obliterated by the conflict.

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The group calls upon "all sides to support the Syrian people in their aspirations towards freedom, equality and democracy and to exert all effort in guaranteeing that the perpetrators and their wrong-doings will not go unpunished, through the International Criminal Court or through establishing a special court for Syria.

"After the failure of referring cases of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria to the International criminal court because of the Russian-Chinese veto in the Security Council, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights renews its call to all international sides to establish a special court for Syria. We in the Syrian Observatory demand the punishment of all perpetrators, instigators, collaborators and all individuals and sides who used the Syrian blood as a political card and as means to carry out their personal agendas, as well as those who transformed a revolution for dignity to a sectarian and ethnic civil war."

Syria's suffering figured prominently in Pope Francis's "Urbi et Orbi" Christmas message. He implored God on Christmas Day to aid the victims of a “brutal persecution” in Iraq and Syria.

"I ask him, the Saviour of the world, to look upon our brothers and sisters in Iraq and Syria, who for too long now have suffered the effects of ongoing conflict, and who, together with those belonging to other ethnic and religious groups, are suffering a brutal persecution," the pope said. "May Christmas bring them hope, as indeed also to the many displaced persons, exiles and refugees, children, adults and elderly, from this region and from the whole world. May indifference be changed into closeness and rejection into hospitality, so that all who now are suffering may receive the necessary humanitarian help to overcome the rigors of winter, return to their countries and live with dignity."

He added, "May the Lord open hearts to trust, and may he bestow his peace upon the whole Middle East, beginning with the land blessed by his birth, thereby sustaining the efforts of those committed effectively to dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians."

Here is the observatory's breakdown of a year of suffering in Syria:

Civilians: 17,790 

Rebel and Islamic fighters: 15488

Defected soldiers and officers: 259

Arab, European, Asian, American and Australian fighters from the ISIS, al-Nusra Front, Junoud al-Sham battalion, Jund Al-Aqsa battalion, Jund al-Sham Movement and al-Khadra’ battalion: 16,979

Regular regime soldiers and officers: 12,861

Combatants from Popular Defense Committees, National Defense Forces, al Shabiha, pro-regime informers and the "Syrian resistance to liberate the Sanjak of Alexandretta": 9,766

Pro-regime Shia militiamen from Arab and Asian nationalities, Al Quds Al Felastini Brigade and other pro-regime militiamen from different Arab nationalities: 2,167

Militiamen from Hezbollah guerrilla: 366

Unidentified dead (documented by photos and footages): 345

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