The Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) called on United Nations on Thursday to investigate Russia’s use of air-delivered incendiary weapons and cluster bombs in Syria.
Incendiary weapons cause immense, often fatally severe burns. Cluster munitions are containers that explode in the air to distribute smaller bombs over a large area. Both of them are banned by international law, including by the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, to which Russia is a party.
The HNC says Russia has repeatedly used incendiary wepons as well as cluster bombs since it deployed warplanes to Syria last year to support embattled Syrian regime leader Bashar al Assad.
HNC coordinator Riad Hijab said Russia used banned weapons to “kill, main and terrorize Syrian civilians, including women and children” in at least 10 documented incidents.
"Russian forces have violated the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and breached international humanitarian law," he wrote in an open letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.
— Syria Opposition HNC (@SyrianHNC_en) 23 Haziran 2016
Hijab also called on EU member countries to impose consequences for repeated breaches on international humanitarian law and warned that failure to do so was “costing Syrian lives, encouraging global refugee crisis, and giving new life to extremist groups.”
The statement came shortly after the recent clash between the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is led by the YPG, and the DAESH terrorist group in the strategic northern city of Manbij. The city has been controlled by DAESH since 2014.
Tens of thousands of civilians are reported to be trapped in the city.
“There is still a civilian population, there are DAESH in defensive areas and the Syrian Democratic Forces are moving closer to them," British Army Major General Doug Chalmers, deputy commander for strategy and sustainment with the US-led coalition, said on Thursday.
Driving DAESH from its last remaining foothold on the Turkish border has been a top priority of the US-backed campaign against the group.
But US support for the SDF is a serious concern for Turkey, a NATO member, because of the YPG’s ties to the PKK, which is recognised as a terrorist group by Ankara.
US slams Russia
US State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington said the United States was taking the HNC’S claims very seriously.
"Regardless of what weapons they're using, (the Russians) shouldn't be striking groups that are committed to the counter-DAESH fight or civilians," he stated.
"Russia and the Assad regime need to be more careful about distinguishing between terrorists, civilians and parties to the cessation of hostilities," he added.
Confirming the HNC’s claims of banned weapon usage, British Army Major General Doug Chalmers told a Pentagon news conference that US-backed forces in Syria have reported that Russia has used cluster munitions.
"Definitely, the people we advise on the ground reported cluster munitions," Chalmers said.