Amnesty International has called on militants operating in Syria’s divided city of Aleppo to halt their unlawful actions.
On Monday, the human rights group said that the offensive launched by militants in the city on October 28 has been marked by indiscriminate attacks on residential areas and is by no means justifiable as a way to break the government’s siege on the city.
“The goal of breaking the siege on eastern Aleppo does not give armed opposition groups a license to flout the rules of international humanitarian law by bombarding civilian neighborhoods in government-held areas without distinction,” said Deputy Director of Campaigns at Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office Samah Hadid.
Earlier, the Syrian military announced that at least 84 people have been killed and another 280 people sustained injuries in three days of intensive and relentless assaults by militants on the government-held parts of the city.
“Armed opposition groups have displayed a shocking disregard for civilian lives. Video footage shows they have used imprecise explosive weapons including mortars and Katyusha rockets, whose use in the vicinity of densely populated civilian areas flagrantly violates international humanitarian law. Armed opposition groups must end all attacks that fail to distinguish between military targets and civilians,” Hadid added.
On Sunday, reports surfaced that at least three dozen people had been injured after militants launched a barrage of shells loaded with toxic gas against two residential neighborhoods in the city.
“Chemical weapons are internationally banned and their use is a war crime. Such weapons cause immense suffering and health damage. Their use can never be justified and regardless of who is behind this attack all parties to the conflict must halt the use of all prohibited weapons of war,” she added.
On Sunday, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura (seen below) also slammed the militant rocket attacks against civilians in Aleppo.
“Those who argue that this is meant to relieve the siege of eastern Aleppo should be reminded that nothing justifies the use of disproportionate, indiscriminate [attacks], including heavy weapons on civilian areas and it could amount to war crimes,” he said. “Credible reports quoting sources on the ground indicate that scores of civilians in west Aleppo have been killed, including children, and hundreds wounded due to relentless and indiscriminate attacks from armed opposition groups.”
Aleppo, once Syria’s second largest city before the start of war in the country, has been a major frontline in the fight against different Takfiri militant groups. The city has been divided into two parts. Militants have occupied the city’s eastern parts for several years.
US must separate moderates from terrorists
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that if the US fails to separate so-called moderate opposition groups in Syria it will become an “accomplice” of the terrorists.
“The fact that not only Staffan de Mistura but also Western media now say that it is Jabhat al-Nusra [Al-Nusra Front] which attacks government positions in the south-western part of Aleppo proves that no one can turn a blind eye anymore,” he said.
“We call on our international partners, you have influence over opposition groups to ask them to separate from al-Nusra. If this does not happen, they are making themselves accomplices of al-Nusra,” he added.
US flirting with terrorists
Following a meeting with Cypriot Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulidis, Lavrov stressed that US either cannot separate the moderates from the terrorists or does not want to.
“Apparently now, it can be said that they actually do not want to do that.” He added. “We hope that the instinct of self-preservation will prevail because flirting with terrorists and attempts to use them for your own goals has never led to anything good.”
Attack on UN building
The United Nations offices in government-controlled part of Aleppo were hit by a tank shell which damaged the building’s top floors, said a statement released by the global body on Monday.
“It is appalling that the building that houses the UN offices was directly targeted,” said the top UN official in Syria, Ali Al-Za’tari. “We strongly condemn the increased violence in all of Aleppo, east and west, which has resulted in the death and injury of scores of civilians, including children.”
The statement refrained from mentioning if anybody was injured in the attack or by whom it was launched, but did condemn the large number of civilians killed by militant rocket fire over the past few days.
Moscow has long insisted that the so-called moderate opposition groups in Syria should leave the areas held by terrorists, which are targeted in the Russian air campaign. The foreign-sponsored conflict in Syria, which started in March 2011, has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 people, according to an estimate by the UN.