World Wrap

Syria death toll climbs to 93,000

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
June 13, 2013

UN raises death toll in Syria, Iran’s hardline candidates split the vote, and China stays out of Snowden controversy. Today is Thursday, June 13, a sad milestone in Syria’s civil war. Here is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

Syrian refugees wait for treatment at a Doctors of the World medical center at the Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, June 11, 2013.

Syria death toll hits record high. The United Nations human rights office said at least 93,000 people were killed through April in Syria’s civil war – an increase from the 80,000 figure it released in mid-May – adding that the true number of deaths could be even higher:

The U.N. report said almost 38,000 reported killings had been excluded because records – which require the victim’s full name and date and location of death – were incomplete. “The true number of those killed is potentially much higher,” [U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi] Pillay said. The death toll has averaged more than 5,000 a month since July, and Pillay said this reflected the “drastically deteriorating pattern of the conflict over the past year.” The Damascus region, Homs and Aleppo have been hardest hit. The U.N. figures, based on data from the Syrian government and seven human rights monitoring groups, include civilians and combatants, but give no breakdown. They show that at least 6,561 children were among the dead.

Pro-Assad forces have focused their attention on Syria’s second-largest city, Aleppo, following a victory over rebel forces in Qusair last week. Pillay warns that a battle in Aleppo could lead to more bloodshed and that another win for Assad could decrease the efficacy of any peace talks between opposition and government leaders. An EU arms embargo on Syria was lifted in May, prompting European countries to consider arming the rebels and pressuring the U.S. to decide how to move forward.

A supporter carries a campaign poster for Iranian presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaae on the streets of Tehran, June 12, 2013. REUTERS/ISNA/Mehdi Ghassemi  

Final countdown. As campaigning for Iran’s presidential election on Friday came to a close, the hardline candidates’ failure to agree on a unity candidate could give the sole moderate candidate Hassan Rohani an advantage:

The next president is not expected to produce any major policy shift on Iran’s disputed nuclear program or its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calls all the shots on the big issues. Yet all but one of the candidates – chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili – has advocated a less intransigent approach to nuclear talks with world powers. The president can influence the tone of Iran’s foreign policy with his choice of trips abroad. Khamenei, 73, never travels outside Iran.

Rohani won the endorsement of reformist candidates barred from the race, but is still considered a member of the establishment. Iran’s next president is expected to stay in line with Khamenei, but could still influence important policies like negotiations over the country’s contentious nuclear program.

A copy of the South China Morning Post newspaper, carrying the latest interview of Edward Snowden, is displayed on a newspaper stand along with local Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong, June 13, 2013. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Mum’s the word. China still has not commented on whether it will extradite NSA leaker Edward Snowden to the U.S., and also has skirted Snowden’s allegations that the U.S. has been spying on China for years:

He told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper on Wednesday that the U.S. government had been hacking into Hong Kong and mainland Chinese computers for years…  [Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying] did not directly comment on the allegations, repeating China’s long-held position that it is one of the world’s biggest victims of hacking and noted that Washington and Beijing had agreed to discuss the issue. However, she added: “On the issue of internet security we believe that having double standards does not help find an appropriate resolution.”

Snowden told the South China Morning Post that the NSA hacked computers in the Chinese University of Hong Kong, home to the facility responsible for most domestic web traffic in Hong Kong. Some analysts say China’s reticence stems from a desire to preserve newly warming ties with the U.S. following an informal summit between Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping.

Nota Bene: Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood uses flour power to fight bread-related violence.

Standouts:

Pop control - India could bring down its birth rate by convincing more women to watch soap operas. (Quartz)

Stinging defeat - A swimmer attempting to swim from Cuba to Florida was stopped by a jellyfish. (BBC)

Space saver - Japan offers its cyclists underground bike valets. (The Atlantic Cities)

Not so mellow yellow - A Danish supermarket discovers batches of cocaine in a shipment of bananas. (The Huffington Post)

Living on the edge - A series of images shows parallel lives on the border of Kosovo and Serbia. (The New York Times)

From the File:

  • A protester with a piano plays in Turkey’s Taksim Square.
  • Big money bails on Argentina – again.
  • France rolls the dice on arming Syrian rebels.
  • Israel presses on with settlement plans for 1,000 more homes.
  • Greeks lash out at closure of government TV.

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