Syria death toll now above 100,000, says UN chief Ban
More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict in Syria, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said.
The latest estimate of the number killed is 7,000 higher than that issued by the UN only last month.
Mr Ban was speaking at UN headquarters in New York alongside US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Both men stressed the urgency of finding a political solution to the conflict. Mr Ban appealed for fresh efforts to convene a peace conference.
In the past the UN has said its statistics are an underestimate as it believes many deaths have not been reported.
In theory the idea of a new Geneva peace conference to bring the two main warring sides together is still on the table. But increasingly diplomats say it is looking unlikely, as President Assad's forces seek to press home their current military advantage, and as Syrian opposition groups continue to argue among themselves over who should lead and represent them.
The governments of the US, Britain and France have said they are now prepared to consider bolstering the moderate opposition with lethal as well as humanitarian aid, to give them much needed weaponry. But so far, in public at least, those arms have not been forthcoming. In London and Washington there seems to be no mass support for a step which could, it is argued, simply fuel the violence and send more arms into the hands of extremists.
As for getting involved militarily, this week the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey - under pressure from the US Senate - set out five military scenarios in Syria, including air strikes against President Assad's troops; setting up a no-fly zone; or establishing buffer zones for refugees inside Syria. But he made clear such steps would cost billions of dollars, lead to more bloodshed and be tantamount to a declaration of war with unforeseen consequences.
A further 1.7 million Syrians have been forced to seek shelter in neighbouring countries.
The UN announcement came as reports from the capital, Damascus, said that seven people had been killed in a car bomb attack.
Syrian state media said the attack took place in the suburb of Jaramana, home to many Christians and Druze, adherents of a syncretic offshoot of Shia Islam. There has tended to be more support for President Bashar al-Assad within those communities.
"The military and violent actions must be stopped by both parties and it is thus imperative to have a peace conference in Geneva as soon as possible," Mr Ban said, according to AFP.
Previous attempts at holding a peace conference have been delayed by differences between international powers, particularly Russia and the US, and doubts about whether all sides from Syria would attend.
However, Mr Kerry said that he had spoken to his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday and that both countries remained committed to holding a conference.
Mr Ban said that he and the UN-Arab League special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi would also "spare no efforts" to bring the conference about.
The UK-based activist group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) meanwhile says that more than 2,000 people have died since the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on 10 July.
The SOHR said that a majority of those killed in this period had been combatants from the two sides. The civilian death toll was 639, 105 of them children and 99 women, according to the SOHR's figures.
The SOHR also says that it believes that its statistics are an underestimate as "both sides do not reveal the true total of human losses".