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Opposition: March deadliest month in Syrian civil war

By Lateef Mungin and Salma Abdelaziz, CNN
updated 10:10 AM EDT, Tue April 2, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Both sides are hiding the true death toll," activist says
  • More than 6,000 people have been killed in March, groups says
  • In all, more than 70,000 people have died in the conflict, the UN says
  • The war in Syria began in March 2011

(CNN) -- The brutal civil war in Syria claimed more than 6,000 lives in March alone -- making it the deadliest month since the conflict began a little more than two years ago, the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Monday.

The group said 6,005 people were killed in Syria last month. That's more than all the deaths that occurred in the first nine months of the war.

"This will become the new normal, and the death toll figures will continue to rise," said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the observatory.

"If the fighting continues as it is and there is no political solution for transition. Syria will be the new Somalia or Afghanistan, and we will never attain democracy in the coming years," he says.

Syria's numbers: How they compare with past wars

In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war: In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war:
Syrian civil war in photos
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The tally, which CNN cannot independently verify, does not include people who are held in detention centers or who have been kidnapped by rebels. Their fate is unknown.

Rahman says the surge in deaths comes from a new intensity in fighting.

"There were many more violent clashes and many military operations conducted by both sides in this time period," he said. "In addition there was heavy shelling in multiple areas by both sides and a suicide bombing in the capital which killed dozens."

In all, some 62,554 people, the opposition group says, have died in the conflict so far.

The United Nations has put the figure higher.

In February, it said more than 70,000 people are believed to have been killed.

March's documented death toll, the observatory says, includes 298 children, 291 women,1,486 rebel fighters and 1,464 government soldiers.

The actual death toll is probably higher, Rahman said.

"There's many missing, and many killed in prisons that we cannot account for," Rahman said. "Both sides are hiding the true death toll figures so they may boost morale."

The rising bloodshed is also spreading hunger by interfering with food aid deliveries, the U.N. World Food Programme said Tuesday.

"It has become a struggle now to move food from one area to the other with our warehouses and trucks getting increasingly caught in the crossfire," said program spokesman Muhannad Hadi. Dispatchers often must call off deliveries to areas they know are in dire need.

The war in Syria has been raging since March 2011 when protesters, partly inspired by Arab Spring uprisings in the region, began demonstrating for more freedom.

That movement quickly morphed into a movement against President Bashar al-Assad, who was appointed president by Syria's parliament in 2000 after his father died.

The government responded with a brutal crackdown -- with devastating results.

Thousand died, 2 million were uprooted from their homes and more than 4 million are in dire need of humanitarian aid, from food to medical care, according to the United Nations.

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