The horror unfolding in Syria of late has been truly shocking. Tens of thousands of Syrians have died in an increasingly bloody civil war.

The situation in Syria has become even more appalling lately, and one wonders if a bloodbath on the scale of Rwanda is possible, particularly if Assad falls.

“This massive loss of life could have been avoided if the Syrian government had chosen to take a different path than one of ruthless suppression of what were initially peaceful and legitimate protests by unarmed civilians,” [U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi] Pillay said.

“As the situation has continued to degenerate, increasing numbers have also been killed by anti-government armed groups, and there has been a proliferation of serious crimes including war crimes, and — most probably — crimes against humanity, by both sides.”

The 60,000, she said, “is likely to be an underestimate of the actual number of deaths.” Citing the discovery of mass graves in newly liberated government bases, Alhamadee, the activist, said: “The number I think is far greater than this, and lots of people are missing.”

“The recording and collection of accurate and reliable data has grown increasingly challenging due to the conflict raging in many parts of the country,” Pillay said.

Rupert Colville, a U.N. spokesman, agrees that the number “is probably a minimum” and reflects a killing field of war crimes.

“There’s not a shadow of doubt now that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed. That said, in each individual case, the final judgment has to be made by a court. It’s hard to quantify at this point,” he said.

“This is a classic case of a conflict that’s spiraling downwards, becoming ever more ghastly. We’ve seen this before in the Balkans and other places. The worse it becomes, the more difficult it is to resolve.”