Syrian opposition groups and Assad regime forces may both be committing war crimes by their indiscriminate attacks in Aleppo, U.N. human rights spokesperson said on Tuesday.
Assad regime, backed by Russia, said on September 22 it was starting a new wide offensive to recapture the rebel-held parts of Aleppo after a week-long ceasefire was declared officially over on 19 September.
There are about 275,000 people trapped by the siege of eastern Aleppo, where civilians are suffering through daily bombing, including by bunker-buster and incendiary weapons, and through starvation, as limited supplies run out and aid convoys are blocked from the city.
On Friday 29 October the rebel forces started a new military operation to break siege on Aleppo, employing heavy shelling and suicide car bombs, was mainly focused on the city’s western edge by rebels based in the countryside outside Aleppo.
“All parties in Aleppo are conducting hostilities that are resulting in large numbers of civilian casualties and creating an atmosphere of terror for those who continue to live in the city,” U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said.
“The reported use of ground-based missiles, along with the use of armed vehicles loaded with explosives, used in an area containing more than 1 million civilian inhabitants, is completely unacceptable and may constitute a war crime,” Shamdasani said.
The high number of civilian casualties suggested the rebels were ignoring the “fundamental prohibition” on indiscriminate attacks and the principles of precaution and proportionality, she added.
The U.N. did not have detailed enough information to attribute the attacks to specific groups, she said.
Government forces and their allies were also continuing to shell opposition-held eastern Aleppo, and the U.N. had documented at least 12 civilian casualties, including two children, on Saturday and Sunday, she said.
“Strikes against hospitals, schools, market places, water facilities, and bakeries are now commonplace and if proven to be intentional may amount to war crimes.”
The United Nations envoy for Syria has also said he is “appalled and shocked” by intensive rocket shelling targeting civilians in Aleppo and killing dozens.
United Nations Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said he was “appalled and shocked by the high number of rockets indiscriminately launched” on civilian suburbs of government-held Aleppo.
“Those who argue that this is meant to relieve the siege of eastern Aleppo should be reminded that nothing justifies the use of disproportionate and indiscriminate weapons, including heavy ones, on civilian areas and it could amount to war crimes,” de Mistura said.
“The civilians of both sides of Aleppo have suffered enough due to futile but lethal attempts of subduing the city of Aleppo,” De Mistura said. “They now need and deserve a stable ceasefire covering this ancient city of Syria.”
The war crimes were made by whom?
Since 19 September, more than 800 civilians were killed by Assad regime’s offensive and more than 2000 injured in rebel-held areas of Aleppo province, including the besieged eastern part of the city, Civil defense workers said.
However, the rebels’ attacks harvested a death toll in the first three days of the offensive to at least 41 civilians, including 16 children, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The U.N. statements always make both crimes equal, and sometimes doesn;t even mention the regime’s breaches as “no enough evidence” are present.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) has released a report called: “Detailed Account of the Russian-Syrian Attacks on the Neighborhoods of Eastern Aleppo after 25 Days of the Second Cessation of Hostilities Statement”.
SNHR team documented from the end of the Cessation of Hostilities statement on Monday 19 September 2016 to Friday 14 October 2016 the following main violations:
First: Massacres and other acts of extrajudicial killing: 361 civilians were killed including 96 children and 55 women. The death toll is distributed by the influential party as follows:
- Russian forces: 287 civilians including 82 children and 46 women.
- Government forces: 74 civilians including 14 children and nine women
Russian forces perpetrated 13 massacres while three massacres were perpetrated by government forces
Second: Targeting of vital civil facilities: We recorded no less than 26 incidents of attack on vital civil facilities that are distributed by the influential party as follows:
- Russian forces: 22
- Government forces: four
Third: Unlawful attacks:
- Russian forces: we recorded six attacks that involved the use of incendiary weapons.
- Government forces: we recorded no less than 151 barrel bombs.
The Russian and Syrian regimes have, beyond any doubt, violated Security Council Resolutions 2139 and 2254 which both state that indiscriminate attacks must be halted. Also, they violated Article 8 of Rome Statute through the act of willful killing which constitutes war crimes.