UN condemns targeting of civilians in Syria

UN investigators say both Syrian regime and rebels target civilians, leaving them in inhumane conditions, as Syrian regime targets civilians in mosques during Ramadan

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

A UN investigator said on Tuesday that the Syrian regime forces have dropped barrel bombs on the city of Aleppo in the north of Syria nearly everyday this year, targeting civilians. Both regime attack and shelling by rebels have caused mass casualties.  

The chairman of the UN commission of inquiry, Paulo Pinheiro, told the Human Rights Council that "The government's campaign of shelling and aerial bombardment sits alongside the besieging of areas and the arrest and disappearance of predominantly fighting-age males from restive areas at its checkpoints."

"Shelling of civilian-inhabited areas by non-state armed groups - including but not limited to ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and Jaysh Al-Islam - have terrorised men, women and children living in localities held by the government," he said.

He also condemned the intensifying attacks on other areas all over the country.

"The continuing use of barrel bombs in aerial campaigns against whole areas, rather than specific targets, is in violation of international humanitarian law and, as previously documented, amounts to the war crime of targeting civilians," the report said.

Syrian Ambassador Hussam Eddin Aala rejected the investigations’ findings about government practices.

"The terrorist group ISIS has committed massacres in Palmyra and caused deaths and injury of hundreds of people, however these crimes don't seem to have found their way into report," he said.

Keith Harper, the US ambassador denounced the Syrian government's use of barrel bombs and detaining of "tens of thousands of Syrians, subjecting them to torture, sexual violence, inhumane conditions and denial of fair trials."

Syrian regime targets worshippers

At least 10 civilians, including two children, were killed while more than 20 others were wounded after a regime helicopter dropped an explosive barrel on a mosque in the neighbourhood of the rebel-held of Al Ansari in the northern city of Aleppo at the time of sunset prayer, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.

The death toll is expected to rise since many of the wounded people are in a critical condition.   

The Britain-based SOHR said new clashes reportedly took place around the two villages of Bashkoy and Kfer Sghir in the northern countryside of Aleppo after midnight between the regime forces, backed by allied militiamen of the Syrian regime of both Arab and Asian backgrounds, and the Syrian opposition along with the Al Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front.Casualties were reported on both sides.

After midnight, the rebels launched new shellings on the regime-held street of Al Nile.

Another rocket was launched by regime forces on the rebel-held neighbourhood of Salah al Din, wounding a number of people.

Syria’s human casualties

The SOHR reported on May 7 that the death toll mounted to 200 civilians in Aleppo province since the start of May due to shellings by opposition factions on the Al Khalidiya district. More than 162 people were wounded in the shelling, including 43 children and 30 women.

The SOHR said more than 12,560 air strikes were conducted by the Syrian regime’s air force countrywide between January and May of this year as helicopters dropped more than 6,686 explosives filled with barrel bombs.

At least 1,820 civilians were killed due to the regime attacks, 428 accounting for children and for 290 women. About 15,000 civilians were wounded, the SOHR added.

Around 814 opposition group fighters including those from Syria’s Nusra Front were killed and hundreds of others have been wounded.

The Syrian regime waged a campaign of intensive air strikes on Aleppo since Dec. 18, 2013. The death toll of the campaign was 2,049 civilians including 571 children until 2014. The ongoing air strikes on Aleppo targeted civilian residences, schools, and markets.

After the war flared up in Aleppo, the commercial capital of Syria, in 2012, the city was divided into two parts with regime forces continually losing ground to opposition groups.

According to recent UN estimates, more than 220,000 Syrians have been killed since the war in Syria started in 2011, but the real death toll is increasing day after day. More than 6.7 million people are displaced internally while at least 5 millions have fled the country.

Amnesty International condemns

Amnesty International said on May 5 that the Syrian regime is committing "crimes against humanity" by conducting air strikes against civilians in Aleppo, also criticising opposition fighters for what they called "war crimes" being committed on “a daily basis.”

Philip Luther, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa programme director, said "By relentlessly and deliberately targeting civilians the Syrian government appears to have adopted a callous policy of collective punishment against the civilian population of Aleppo."

Last year, at least 3,000 civilians were killed in the Aleppo province by Syrian regime barrel bomb attacks, according to Amnesty.   

TRTWorld and agencies