Activist groups said Sunday that about 5,000 people were killed in Syria’s civil war in August, the highest figure ever reported in more than 17 months of fighting as President Bashar Assad’s regime unleashed crushing air power against the revolt for the first time.
The U.N. children’s fund UNICEF put the death toll for last week alone at 1,600, the largest weekly figure for the entire uprising.
“The past month witnessed large massacres and the regime was conducting wide operations to try to crush the uprising,” said Omar Idilbi, a Cairo-based activist with the Local Coordination Committees group. “Last month’s acts of violence were unprecedented.”
He said the increased use of the air force and artillery bombardments was behind the spike in casualties.
The civil war witnessed a major turning point in August when Assad’s forces began widely using air power for the first time to try to put down the revolt. The fighting also reached Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, which had been relatively quiet for most of the uprising.
The Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 5,440 people, including 4,114 civilians were killed in August. The LCC put the toll at 4,933 civilians.
On Sunday, the Observatory and the LCC said more than 100 people were killed throughout Syria and the groups have been reporting 100-250 deaths per day over the past week.
Syria’s uprising has been the bloodiest in the Arab Spring that has already removed long-serving authoritarian leaders in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya.