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Syria conflict death toll hits 150,344, activists say

The death toll in Syria's three-year conflict has exceeded 150,000, an activist group said Tuesday as fighting raged across the country.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that it has documented 150,344 deaths in the conflict that started in March 2011. The figure includes civilians, rebels, and members of the Syrian military. It also includes militiamen, fighting alongside President Bashar Assad's forces and foreign fighters battling for Assad's ouster on the rebels' side.

The Observatory bases its tally on the information the group receives from a network of informants on the ground inside Syria.

In January, the U.N. said it had stopped updating its own tally of the Syrian dead because it can no longer verify the sources of information that led to its last count of at least 100,000 in late July.

Of the 150,344 people who died in the conflict, the majority -- or 75,487 -- were civilians, including 7,985 children and 5,266 women, The Observatory said. The number also includes 26,561 rebel fighters and 35,601 Syrian soldiers as well as 22, 879 Assad-loyal fighters and 11,220 foreign fighters battling on the opposition side.

Syria's uprising began with largely peace protests against Assad's rule. It has since then evolved into a civil war with sectarian overtones, pitting predominantly Sunni Muslim rebels against Assad's government that is dominated by Alawites, a sect in Shiite Islam. On the opposition side, Islamic extremists, including foreign fighters and Syrian rebels who have taken up hard-line Al Qaeda-style ideologies, have played an increasingly prominent role among fighters, dampening the West's support for the rebellion to overthrow Assad.

That has led to a backlash by Islamic brigades and more moderate rebels who launched a war against the Al Qaeda breakaway group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Infighting has raged in the north for months and more than, 3,000 fighters have been killed in the rebel-on-rebel violence since the beginning of the year, according to activists. These deaths were not included in Observatory's tally.

On Tuesday, The Observatory said fighting between Assad's loyalist and the rebels was concentrated in several opposition-held suburbs of the capital, Damascus, and the northern province of Aleppo, where rebels have managed to hold on to large swaths of territory and whole districts of the city of Aleppo, Syria's largest urban center and its commercial hub. The rebels captured them from government forces in a 2012 offensive.

The group also reported heavy clashes in the southern province of Daraa that is the birthplace of Syria's uprising.

Syria's official SANA news agency said terrorists, a term state media uses for rebels, have fired mortars into a government-held district of Aleppo, killing five people and wounding 26 others. In Damascus, one person died and two were injured in separate mortar attacks on the capital's districts of Zablatani and Abassyeen, SANA said.