Syria: Deadly air strike 'hits Damascus petrol station'

Unverified video footage of the blast scene showed burning vehicles

Dozens of people have been killed by an air strike on a petrol station in the outskirts of the Syrian capital, Damascus, activists say.

Damascus residents say they saw burning bodies and horrific scenes after the air strike in Mleiha district.

Unverified reports from activists suggested 70 people had been killed.

The UN's Human Rights Council said a new study suggested more than 60,000 had died since the start of the unrest, many more than activists have claimed.

UN rights chief Navi Pillay said in a statement that the number of casualties was "truly shocking".

Huge explosion

Activists posted video footage online purporting to show the latest air strike.

It featured charred bodies and burnt-out vehicles.

Just as 2012 was ending, Damascus witnessed the heaviest strikes by government forces. Large explosions were heard and multiple rockets attacks by midnight on 31 December. Since then, warplanes have continued to fire on several suburbs, killing many civilians.

Central Damascus is still moving, but people have grim expressions on their faces. They can hear the warplanes firing rockets at nearby neighbourhoods.

However, some residents still hold on to a sense of optimism that the blood lost will bring a better future. A man from Darayya who lost family members and was forced out of his destroyed house told me: "Hand in hand, we will rebuild what was destroyed and continue living all together in a better free Syria."

And that seems to be the sense among many Syrians.

The reported death toll ranged from about 30 to 70. The figures could not be verified.

One activist told Reuters news agency that the warplane had attacked the petrol station as a consignment of fuel arrived.

The BBC's Lina Sinjab in Damascus says Mleiha is not an opposition stronghold, and civilians appear to have borne the brunt of the attack.

Many of the killed or injured are women and children, she says.

Syria is in the grip of chronic fuel shortages, and motorists often wait for hours in queues at petrol stations.

Activists told the Associated Press that a single missile had struck the station.

The strike sparked a huge explosion that engulfed vehicles that had been waiting in line.

Ms Pillay said an "exhaustive" study of all deaths between 15 March 2011 and 30 November 2012 showed 59,648 had been killed between those dates.

"Given there has been no let-up in the conflict since the end of November, we can assume that more than 60,000 people have been killed by the beginning of 2013," she said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based activist group, had put the figure at 44,000.

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