Tuesday 20 March 2018

Russia 'may be guilty of war crimes in Syria'

Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN, attends a United Nations Security Council emergency meeting on Syria yesterday. GETTY
Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN, attends a United Nations Security Council emergency meeting on Syria yesterday. GETTY

Phil Spencer

Russia is guilty of war crimes in Syria if it was behind a deadly attack on an aid convoy last week, according to British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

His comments came as at least 23 civilians were killed in renewed government airstrikes on the contested city of Aleppo.

The United Nations Security Council has convened an emergency meeting on the spiralling violence in Syria.

The UN's top envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, accused its government of unleashing "unprecedented military violence" against civilians in Aleppo.

And the US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, said Russia's action in Syria was barbarism, not counter-terrorism.

However, the strongest condemnation came with Mr Johnson's accusation of war crimes.

He said Russia's air force may have deliberately targeted the civilian convoy on September 19, killing 20 people.

Russia denies involvement and instead suggests Syrian rebels or a US drone were responsible.

France's Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Russia and Iran would be guilty of war crimes if they didn't pressure Syrian President Bashar Assad to stop escalating violence.

Mr De Mistura said Syria's declaration of a military offensive to retake rebel-held eastern Aleppo had led to one of the worst weeks of the five-year war, with dozens of airstrikes against residential areas and buildings causing scores of civilian deaths.

He said the offensive targeting of civilians with sophisticated weapons, including incendiary devices, may amount to war crimes.

Medical workers and local officials reported airstrikes on neighbourhoods throughout Aleppo's rebel-held eastern districts yesterday, as an announced government offensive entered its fourth day.

Hospitals are overwhelmed with casualties and medics expect many of the wounded to die from a lack of treatment.

"I've never seen so many people dying in once place," said one medical official from a hospital in the city.

"It's terrifying today. In less than one hour the Russian planes have killed more than 50 people and injured more than 200."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of contacts inside Syria, said that 213 civilians have been killed by airstrikes and shelling in and around Aleppo since a ceasefire collapsed last Monday.

Irish Independent

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