REPORTING FROM BEIRUT -- The death toll in Syria since anti-government protests erupted almost eight months ago has risen to 3,500, the United Nations said Tuesday.
Driving the violence is “the brutal government crackdown on dissent,” Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, told reporters in Geneva.
The government of President Bashar Assad blames the violence on armed militants supported from abroad. Damascus says the violence has cost the lives of more than 1,000 security personnel.
Since an Arab League-sponsored peace plan was hammered out last week, more than 60 additional people have been killed, Shamdasani said.
The plan calls for Syria to remove armed security forces from populated areas, among other provisions. But the U.N. statement backs opposition accounts that the government has maintained a siege of the central city of Homs, a hub of protests demanding Assad's ouster.
“Syrian troops continue to use tanks and heavy weaponry to mount attacks on residential areas in the city of Homs,” the spokeswoman said.
The opposition has declared Homs a humanitarian “disaster area” and called for the international community to send in monitors.
-- Patrick J. McDonnell
Photo: A purported anti-government march near the city of Dara on Sunday. Credit: Reuters