War crimes committed in battle for Aleppo, UN finds

War crimes committed in battle for Aleppo, UN finds

Armed groups intentionally terrorized the civilian population in Aleppo by shelling residential areas during the battle for the city, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria said in a report dubbed Special Inquiry into the Events in Aleppo.

Meanwhile, fighters for the rebels are also said to have committed war crimes in the siege between July and December previous year.

Syrian and Russian forces conducted daily air strikes on rebel-held eastern Aleppo between July and its fall on 22 December, killing hundreds and destroying hospitals, the report said.

The Syrian Army has been accused of the use of toxic chlorine bombs "throughout 2016" in eastern Aleppo, "resulting in hundreds of civilian casualties" according to the report.

It said the siege "simultaneously deprived civilians of freedom of movement and prevented basic commodities, including food and medical supplies, from entering the city". Russian Federation meanwhile suggested that a U.S. drone was to blame.

"The munitions employed (against the convoy) were particularly appropriate for attacking unarmored vehicles and individuals", the report said.

A number of these attacks were carried out without a clear military target and had no other objective than to terrorise the civilian population.

By late November 2016 when pro-government forces on the ground took control over eastern Aleppo, no functioning hospitals or other medical facilities remained.

"These included cases of Syrian soldiers killing their own relatives" who backed the opposition, and pro-government forces executing the wife and daughter of a rebel commander as they tried to enter western Aleppo, the report said.

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The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria was established by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate and record all violations of international law since March 2011.

Opposition groups shelled government-controlled western Aleppo, killing and injuring dozens, the report said.

Those evacuations, which were observed by United Nations staff and the International Committee of the Red Cross, left civilians with "no option to remain", the COI said.

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

On 9 August, Major Yasser Abd ar-Rahim, a Fatah Halab rebel commander, delivered a statement vowing that the coalition of armed groups would take "revenge" on the Kurds in Sheikh Maqsoud, specifying that they would "not find a place to bury their dead in Aleppo".

The last rebel fighters were evacuated from Aleppo in late December of past year. It added that "there is no information to support the claim that the Russian military ever used any chemical weapons" in Syria.

There were also reports of arbitrary arrests of persons suspected of belonging to rebel groups, including doctors, and of men and boys being subjected to forced conscription.

The UN Commission of Inquiry's report covers the July-December period and is based on 291 interviews with victims and witnesses, as well as analysis of forensic evidence and satellite imagery.