Fri, Apr 12, 2013 - Page 1 News List

At least 4,300 dead in Syrian airstrikes: HRW

Agencies, BEIRUT and LONDON

A US-based rights group yesterday accused Syria of war crimes by indiscriminate and sometimes deliberate airstrikes against civilians, killing at least 4,300 people since last summer.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Syrian fighter jets have targeted bakeries, bread lines and hospitals in the country’s north.

In recent months, parts of northern Syria, especially areas along the border with Turkey, have fallen under the control of rebels, including several neighborhoods of Aleppo, the country’s largest city.

“The aim of the airstrikes appears to be to terrorize civilians from the air, particularly in the opposition-controlled areas where they would otherwise be fairly safe from any effects of fighting,” Ole Solvang of the New York-based group said.

These attacks are “serious violations of international humanitarian law,” and people who commit such breaches are “responsible for war crimes,” the group said.

Solvang led the HRW team that inspected 52 sites in northern Syria and documented what it said were 59 unlawful attacks by the Syrian Air Force. At least 152 people were killed in these attacks, according to an HRW report released yesterday.

The group inspected sites only in rebel-held areas because the Syrian government barred access to parts of the country under its control.

Based on inspections and more than 140 interviews with witnesses, HRW said warplanes “deliberately targeted four bakeries [in the north] where civilians were waiting in bread lines a total of eight times.”

Repeated aerial attacks on two hospitals in the areas the group visited in the northern areas under opposition control “strongly suggest that the government also deliberately targeted these facilities,” HRW said.

Meanwhile, opposition activists and a monitoring group yesterday said that at least 45 Syrians were killed, some of them in cold blood, after troops stormed the contested town of Sanamein in the southern province of Deraa.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said dozens of civilians, including children, were killed on Wednesday in shelling and summary executions after forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad entered Sanamein.

In London, US Secretary of State John Kerry and other G8 foreign ministers were to hold a second day of talks yesterday focused on Syria after rebels again appealed for weapons.

The ministers started off their gathering over dinner on Wednesday, shortly after Syrian opposition leaders met with Kerry about their repeated calls for arms to fight the Syrian regime forces. The talks with members of the opposition Syrian National Coalition included its prime minister, Ghassan Hitto.

The US said it was mulling ways to step up help for Syria’s rebels. Kerry held talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in a bid to find common ground with a key ally of al-Assad on ending the conflict.

However, overshadowing the discussions was a statement on Wednesday by the head of Syria’s jihadist al-Nusra Front pledging allegiance to al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, which only increases Western doubts about arming the rebels.

The announcement by the al-Nusra front is likely to bolster assertions by al-Assad’s regime that it is fighting “terrorists” who want to impose an Islamic state.

A top US State Department official confirmed that, during a lunch hosted by British Foreign Secretary William Hague, the Syrian opposition leaders renewed appeals for lethal aid, but Kerry “didn’t promise anything.”

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