The United Nations on Friday raised the death toll in Syria's seven months of anti-regime protests to 3,000, and called for international action to protect civilians.
The BBC reported that at least 187 children were among the dead, according to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay – who said 100 people had been killed in the past 10 days.
Pillay, a former U.N. war crimes judge, warned in a statement that the "ruthless repression" of protesters could drive the country into full-blown civil war.
As more members of the military refuse to attack civilians and change sides, the crisis is already showing worrying signs of descending into an armed struggle.
She said it was the responsibility of all members of the international community “to take protective action in a collective manner."
The government of President Bashar al-Assad says armed terrorist gangs are responsible for the violence.
It claims that 1,100 security forces members have been killed.
(Read more on GlobalPost: Syria: The cost of repression)
China and Russia vetoes a U.N. draft resolution that threatened "measures" against Syrian if the crackdown on pro-democracy protests was not ended.
Pillay's spokesman, Rupert Colville, told a news briefing that diplomatic moves had not produced results – and that just hoping things will get better isn't good enough”.
But he stopped short of elaborating on what action should be taken, saying it was for U.N. member states to decide.
Reuters reported that a preliminary U.N. rights investigation in August had uncovered allegations of crimes against humanity in Syria, including executions, which it described as “credible”.