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BEIRUT: More than 4,360 people, including combatants and civilians, were killed in Syria’s civil war in 2023, in the thirteenth year since fighting began, a war monitor said on Sunday.

The figure was an increase on 2022, when 3,825 people were killed.

That was the lowest annual death toll since the conflict began in 2011 with the government’s brutal crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy protests, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

This year’s count included 1,889 civilians, 241 of them women and 307 children, according to the United Kingdom-based Observatory, which has a broad network of sources inside Syria.

Syrian government forces accounted for almost 900 of the dead this year, with other fighters including from the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, pro-Iran groups, Islamist factions, Islamic State group jihadists and foreign combatants accounting for the rest.

Over the years, the country’s conflict spiralled dramatically. It pulled in foreign armies, militias and jihadists, killed more than 500,000 people, displaced millions and ravaged the country’s infrastructure and industry.

With Iranian and Russian support, Damascus has clawed back much of the territory it lost earlier in the conflict, although large parts of the country’s north remain outside government control.

Front lines have mostly quietened in recent years and annual death tolls dropped to lower levels.

Nevertheless, violence persists. The Observatory reported that several people including a fighter and a child were killed on Saturday in government bombardment of “residential areas and a market” the city of Idlib.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist group led by Al-Qaeda’s former Syria branch, controls swathes of Idlib province and parts of neighbouring Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces — the last major bastion of armed opposition in Syria.

A ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey was declared in Idlib after a Syrian government offensive in March 2020, but it has been repeatedly violated.

Also on Saturday, 25 pro-Iran fighters were killed in air strikes in eastern Syria “likely” carried out by Israel, the Observatory said, raising an earlier toll of 23.

The dead included five Syrians, six Iraqi fighters, four from Lebanon’s Hezbollah group and 10 other non-Syrian combatants, the Observatory said.It also said eight people, including three civilians, were killed in Israeli strikes on Saturday near the airport in the main northern city of Aleppo, updating an earlier toll of four fighters killed.

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