April 23, 2017

Both sides committed war crimes in Syrian conflict

03 March 2017, 12:52 | Clarence Schmidt

Timur Abdullayev NewsTeam TASS

Timur Abdullayev  NewsTeam  TASS

The report was issued as Syrian peace talks continue in Geneva, Switzerland.

The findings are based on 291 interviews with victims and witnesses, as well as forensic evidence and satellite imagery.

Russian and Syrian government airstrikes targeted several villages south and east of al-Bab on Tuesday, hitting U.S. -backed military they thought were so-called Islamic State forces, said U.S. Army lieutenant general Stephen Townsend.

Russian servicemen have delivered over four tonnes (metric tons) of humanitarian aid to Syrian residents in the course of seven humanitarian actions carried out in the past 24 hours, the Russian center for Syrian reconciliation informs in its daily bulletin.

As part of Wednesday's report, United Nations investigators described the "particularly egregious episode" when an aid convoy was bombed in the Aleppo countryside, killing 15 aid workers and denying civilians of vital supplies.

It added: "The continued use of chlorine by Syrian forces evinces a blatant disregard for worldwide legal obligations, and also amounts to the war crime of indiscriminate attacks against a civilian population".

Rebels prevented civilians in some districts of eastern Aleppo from leaving, in effect keeping them as human shields. The use of those indiscriminate weapons in civilian areas constituted a war crime, the commission said, but investigators did not receive hard proof of the Russian forces' involvement in specific strikes that was needed to tie them to war crimes.

The report says that the cluster bombs were deliberately used on hospitals, which is a gross human rights violation.

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The official Syrian news agency SANA said the government delegation had held "deep" and "fruitful" discussions over the "basic principles" for the political solution in Syria and succeeded in incorporating terrorism as a topic of discussion.

In eastern Aleppo, rebel armed groups "established offices" in residential homes and other civilian buildings, the report said, adding that the militants "regularly appropriated residences left abandoned by civilians". The diplomat, who was not authorized to speak to reporters and therefore spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Syrian opposition had adopted a more pragmatic stance and was unlikely to walk out.

The talks seek to capitalize on a cease-fire agreement brokered by Russian Federation and Turkey after the evacuation of eastern Aleppo, but fighting is still underway in different parts of the country.

Pro-government forces have seized the citadel in Palmyra, which is around a mile away from the central town's famed archaeological site, according to media operated by the Lebanese Hezbollah group, which is fighting alongside government forces.

Further in the report, the Commission also notes that armed groups indiscriminately shelled civilian-inhabited areas of western Aleppo with improvised weapons, such as rocket-assisted munitions and mortars, resulting in extensive civilian casualties.

The Barzeh, Qaboun, and Tishreen neighborhoods form one of the last two footholds of the opposition inside the capital.

In southwestern Syria, IS-affiliated militants clashed with Syrian rebels, the Observatory said. Last month, the IS-affiliated militants captured several villages and a large town from Syrian rebels in the Daraa countryside.

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