UN chief paints worsening picture of war in Syria citing widespread conflict, high casualties

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UNITED NATIONS — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon painted a worsening picture of the war in Syria, citing widespread conflict, indiscriminate government bombing, opposition shelling, high civilian casualties and deteriorating humanitarian conditions.

In his monthly report to the U.N. Security Council obtained Friday by The Associated Press, the U.N. chief said the use of roadside and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices increased during December and more than 21 suicide operations were reported in the provinces of Aleppo, Hama and Daraa.

"Attacks with barrel bombs and explosive weapons continue to be carried out in civilian neighborhoods, killing and maiming large numbers of people," Ban said. "Some 212,000 people remain besieged, deprived of food, health care, and protection. Hospitals and facilities providing basic services have been attacked. And humanitarian deliveries are still prevented from reaching the large number of people who desperately need help."

Ban said 12.2 million people in Syria need assistance, nearly 3.8 million have been forced to flee the country and are refugees while approximately 7.6 million — almost half the Syrian population — are now internally displaced.

He said fighters from the Islamic State group, who control about one-third of Syria, reportedly incurred heavy casualties in intensified fighting with Kurdish forces last month. He also cited numerous reports of human rights violations by the Islamic extremist group in December.

The secretary-general said the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front, another major opposition group, reportedly continued to attract additional fighters and resources, particularly in Idlib and Daraa. He said the Nusra Front, along with other armed groups, took control of two strategic military bases in Idlib in December.

The Syrian crisis began nearly four years ago with an uprising against President Bashar Assad and then turned into a civil war. So far, 220,000 people have been killed. Ban said that according to the U.N. human rights office at least 2,000 detainees have been held since 2011 at the Homs Central Prison due to their participation in peaceful anti-government protests.

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