UN says Syrian rebel shelling of Kurds ‘a war crime’

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Flags of the Kurdish forces are seen in central Sheikh Maqsoud district in Aleppo, northern Syria. File photo

ARA News

Syrian rebel factions have committed war crimes by deliberately directing attacks against Kurdish civilians in Aleppo, killing and maiming dozens of civilians, United Nations investigators said on Wednesday in a report that shows both the Syrian government and rebels were involved in war crimes in Aleppo.

In 2012, government forces withdrew from predominantly Kurdish inhabited areas in the north of the country to focus on the ensuing conflict. Sheikh Maqsoud, a hilltop district at the northern edge of Aleppo city, has since been under the control of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

In April 2016, anti-government rebel groups surrounded the YPG-led district, which led heavy clashes. “Apart from rocket attacks directed at civilian-inhabited areas, sniper fire with precision rifles from armed group positions in eastern Aleppo city caused numerous casualties,” the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria said in a report.

“The overall situation in the Kurdish-held enclave remains precarious; there are serious shortage of water and electricity, and most of the population subsists on generators and wells,” it said.

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”.

Major Abd ar-Rahim accused the YPG of killing armed group fighters and of collaborating with pro-Government forces over the summer.

“While attacks against Sheikh Maqsoud decreased during the period under review (compared with earlier in the year, due to the siege), it was against this backdrop that armed groups intentionally attacked civilian-inhabited neighbourhoods of the Kurdish enclave, killing and maiming dozens of civilian,” the UN report said.

“These acts constitute the war crime of directing attacks against a civilian population,” it added.

In December 2016, the Syrian regime said it took full control of Aleppo after five years of fighting.

According to the UN report, both the Syrian rebels and the Syrian government committed serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law amounting to war crimes.

“As pro-Government forces and armed groups fought for control of eastern Aleppo city, civilians caught in the fighting were increasingly left vulnerable to repeated violations by all sides,” the report said.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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