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Syria Death Toll for March Reaches 2,658 With 28 Civilians Tortured to Death in ‘Dungeons’

Syria’s ongoing battle with the Islamic State continues to take a heavy toll on the civilian population with hundreds of noncombatants killed during March 2016 either as direct targets of Islamist militants or “collateral damage” from airstrikes.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has documented the deaths of 2,658 people during the course of the month, including 588 civilians uninvolved with the conflict.

Among the dead were 125 children who were killed by bombings, mortars, IEDs or random gunfire.

Besides the large number of fighters killed on either side of the warfare, 28 civilians were also “killed under torture in Syrian security prisons and dungeons of its intelligence branches” and others were executed summarily by the Islamic State and other jihadist factions.

Earlier this week ISIS militants crucified eight men on electrical poles in the Caliphate’s Syrian capital of Raqqa, in punishment for crimes committed against the Islamic State.

An official of the Islamic State sharia court read out a sentence detailing the charges behind the death sentence just before the prisoners were executed.

Of the eight men killed, three were former members of ISIS who had deserted, four others were charged with violating unspecified Islamic State “regulations” in Raqqa, and the eighth man was accused of spying for the forces of the international coalition hostile to ISIS.

Syria’s Christian population has been hit particularly hard by the conflict, in large part because Islamist militants have made a point of targeting them for destruction or exile.

Last month, the Chaldean bishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo, reported that the Christian population in Syria had been reduced by two thirds in just five years of conflict and persecution, from 1.5 million in 2011 to only 500,000 today.

The situation in Aleppo is even worse than in the rest of Syria, with only a quarter of the Christian population remaining since the beginning of Syria’s civil war in 2011. Ravaged by the fighting and persecuted by Islamic extremists, the number of Christians in Aleppo has fallen from 160,000 to just 40,000.

“You cannot imagine the dangers that we face every day,” the bishop said.

Pope Francis and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill issued a historic joint statement in February decrying the emptying of the Middle East of Christians in the very cradle of the Christian faith.

“It is with pain,” they said, “that we call to mind the situation in Syria, Iraq and other countries of the Middle East, and the massive exodus of Christians from the land in which our faith was first disseminated and in which they have lived since the time of the Apostles, together with other religious communities.”

In the birthplace of the Islamic State, Christians have been killed by the thousands, and millions have been displaced, leaving many parts of the Middle East virtually devoid of Christians.

“Thousands of victims have already been claimed in the violence in Syria and Iraq, which has left many other millions without a home or means of sustenance,” the text read.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter  

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