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Over 37,000 have died in Syria's civil war, opposition group says

By Saad Abedine and Ben Brumfield , CNN
November 16, 2012 -- Updated 0228 GMT (1028 HKT)
A Syrian man moves his belongings from his damaged shop in the old city of Aleppo on November 12, 2012
A Syrian man moves his belongings from his damaged shop in the old city of Aleppo on November 12, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Syria's death toll rises unabated
  • Homs and Damascus are the deadliest places in Syria, an opposition group says
  • The Russian Foreign Ministry criticizes the recent backing of rebels
  • UNHCR: Refugees continue to spill over into neighboring countries

(CNN) -- As the total death toll in Syria marches towards 40,000, the Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday lambasted the recent U.S. backing of Syria's opposition in its quest to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

Homs and Damascus are the deadliest places in Syria, according to an opposition group that keeps a running total of those whose lives came to a bloody end in 20-month armed conflict.

Read more: Syrian opposition leader expects more from U.S.

Of the 37,387 who have perished since fighting began, 6,992 were killed in Homs and 6,750 in the suburbs of Damascus, the Violations Documentation Center said.

The total number includes 3,061 government soldiers, which the group only recently started to include in its count.

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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Read more: Young Syrian amputee makes dangerous journey to find help

Russia's Foreign Ministry published harsh criticism in its active Twitter feed of the recent show of support by the United States, France and Arab states around the Persian Gulf for fighters trying to topple Assad.

"The Syrian opposition has been given a false signal, strengthening the positions of extremists, including terrorists," a tweet reads. The ministry said the decision went against international principles on Syria established in Geneva.

Quoting Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the ministry tweeted: "If the priority is Assad's fate, it will be paid for with new casualties in #Syria. Our key priority is to prevent such sacrifices."

Lavrov met with the Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday. Russia has shown support for its long-standing ally Assad, while the GCC openly backs the opposition. Both sides have been accused of supplying weapons to the conflict parties.

The conflict raged on Thursday in Syria's perpetual flashpoints with no sign of losing intensity. The killing continues to drive civilians to flee over the country's borders.

The U.N. refugee office says 414,838 Syrians are in neighboring countries registered as refugees or waiting to register. Turkey has the single highest number, with 114,944, it says.

The Violations Documentation Center regularly publishes a meticulous tally of those who have been killed during Syria's armed conflict, claiming to include in its count only those whose deaths are documented on video or with an ID card. It works closely with the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, a source commonly cited in reports on Syria.

Both organizations support the overthrow of the Syrian government.

The figures in their statistics will continue to rise. Ninety-five people died Thursday, including 46 in Damascus and its suburbs, and 14 in Homs, according to the LCC.

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