Syrian soldiers are killing children in their assault on anti-government strongholds, as human rights abuses have "sharply escalated" in the 11-month uprising against President Bashar Assad, a top U.N. official said Monday.
"The gross, widespread and systematic human rights violations have not only continued, but also sharply escalated," Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for human rights, told the U.N. General Assembly in New York.
"Children have been killed by beating, sniper fire and shelling from government security forces in several places throughout Syria."
The General Assembly was considering a draft resolution that would condemn human rights violations by the Syrian government.
The United Nations last month estimated that 5,400 people have been killed since anti-government protests erupted in March, 2011.
Residents in the western city of Homs, a hotbed of the uprising, said Syrian forces continued to use tanks, mortars and rockets to attack residential neighborhoods. The army has also attacked the cities of Hama, Dera and Idlib.
Residents of Homs, who spoke on the condition of anonymity citing concern for their safety, said wounded civilians too afraid to go to hospitals are seeking treatment at makeshift field hospitals. These medical facilities are running dangerously low on supplies, including blood for transfusions.
Ms. Pillay said the Assad regime is using hospitals to detain and torture protesters. Soldiers are attacking ambulances, and security forces have arbitrarily arrested thousands of people, she said.
Ms. Pillay said she was outraged by the attacks by the Syrian forces and urged the international community to "act now to urgently protect the Syrian population."
The "continued ruthless repression and deliberate stirring of sectarian tensions might soon plunge Syria into civil war," she warned.
Earlier this month, Russia and China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that sought to stop the Syrian regime's brutal crackdown.
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