The United Nations human rights office today expressed concern that all parties in Aleppo are conducting hostilities which are resulting in large numbers of civilian casualties, and creating an atmosphere of terror for those who continue to live in the Syrian city.
“Strikes against hospitals, schools, marketplaces, water facilities and bakeries are now commonplace, and may amount to war crimes,” Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) told reporters in Geneva.
She said that over the weekend, there were reports of intensified shelling by armed opposition groups of civilian-populated areas in Government-controlled western Aleppo. The areas hit by mortars, rockets and other improvised explosive devices (IEDs) included the neighbourhoods of Salah al-Din, al-Shahbaa, al-Zahraa and al-Hamadaniya, she added.
Strikes against hospitals, schools, marketplaces, water facilities and bakeries are now commonplace, and may amount to war crimes
Also in western Aleppo, more than 30 civilians, including at least 10 children, were reportedly killed and dozens of others injured as a result of the attacks on 29 and 30 October, she said, adding that OHCHR received unconfirmed reports of families fleeing the hostilities towards opposition-held areas of the city. “Such high numbers of civilian casualties suggest that armed opposition groups are failing to adhere to the fundamental prohibition under international humanitarian law on the launching of indiscriminate attacks, and the principles of precaution and proportionality,” Ms. Shamdasani said.
The reported use of ground-based missiles along with the use of armoured vehicles loaded with explosives in an area containing more than one million civilian inhabitants is completely unacceptable and may constitute war crimes, she stressed.
In opposition-held eastern Aleppo, she said, shelling by Government forces and their allies is also reported to be continuing. Among the neighbourhoods particularly affected are al-Ferdous, Sayf al-Dawla, al-Qaterji and al-Mashhad. At least 12 civilians including two children were reportedly killed as a result of the attacks over Saturday and Sunday, with dozens of civilians injured.
Ms. Shamdasani said that while Russian Ministry of Defence representatives are reported to have stated that Syrian and Russian air forces are observing a moratorium on flights closer than 10 kilometres around Aleppo since the launch of the unilateral ceasefire on 18 October, “we did receive some reports of airstrikes hitting opposition-controlled eastern Aleppo on 22 and 23 October.”
“While there have not been airstrikes since that time, we remain concerned about 250,000 civilians at risk in this area should they resume,” she added.