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UN report links US, Russia, Assad regime to Syria war crimes

The chief of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Paulo Pinheiro, presented the report [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 September, 2019

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A new report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria details attacks on civilians by Assad regime, Russian, and US-led forces which may amount to war crimes.

A new report by UN investigators has said that US, Assad regime and Russian forces may have committed war crimes in Syria.

The report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said that Assad regime and Russian warplanes have conducted a deadly campaign of airstrikes which target medical facilities, schools, markets, and farms. These amount to war crimes, the report said.

The UN report also said that air strikes by US-led coalition forces in Syria have killed and wounded many civilians. The coalition’s failure to take required precautions to protect civilians may also be a war crime, the UN investigators said.

In addition, the report accused Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, an Islamist extremist group which dominates rebel-held Idlib province, of firing rockets indiscriminately and killing civilians.

The report covers the period from January to July 2019 and is based on nearly 300 interviews as well as an analysis of satellite imagery, photographs and videos.

The period covers the first half of a major Assad regime and Russian assault on rebel-held Idlib province which killed 1,378 people, according to Syrian first responders, and displaced 450,000 more.

On May 14, in Idlib province, Syrian regime forces “airdropped between two and four missiles on a fish market and primary school for girls in Jisr al-Shughur”, killing at least 8 civilians, the report said.

The report also noted that Assad regime forces carried out repeated airstrikes on the town of Saraqib in northwest Idlib province on March 9, damaging the Al-Hayat women’s and children’s hospital, despite the Assad regime being aware of its coordinates. Up to 50 health facilities may have been targeted in the regime’s campaign against Idlib province.

“Such attacks may amount to the war crime of deliberately attacking protected objects and intentionally attacking medical personnel,” the UN report said.

The UN investigators also said that the US’s air operation against the Islamic State extremist group in eastern Syria resulted in a high number of civilian casualties.

The US backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured IS’s last major stronghold, Hajin, in December 2018.

The US-led coalition’s Al-Jazirah Storm operation included an airstrike on Sha’fah near Hajin on January 3 which killed 16 civilians, including 12 children, according to the report.

“The Commission finds that there are reasonable grounds to believe that international coalition forces may not have directed their attacks at a specific military objective, or failed to do so with the necessary precaution,” it said.

“Launching indiscriminate attacks that result in death or injury to civilians amounts to a war crime in cases in which such attacks are conducted recklessly,” it added.

Raids by SDF forces, in which coalition helicopter gunships took part, killed and wounded civilians in Shahil and other areas of eastern Syria, in violation of international law.

More than 500,000 civilians have been killed in Syria’s eight-year long conflict, mostly as a result of Assad regime bombardment of civilian areas.

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