War crimes in Aleppo and Daraya

Amnesty reports: Armed groups surrounding the predominantly Kurdish Sheikh Maqsoud district of Aleppo city have repeatedly carried out indiscriminate attacks – possibly including with chemical weapons – that have struck civilian homes, markets and mosques, killing and injuring civilians, and have displayed a shameful disregard for human life, said Amnesty International today.

Two of the armed groups conducting attacks on Sheikh Maqsoud – Ahrar al Sham and Army of Islam – have sent representatives to the UN-brokered negotiations on Syria in Geneva, while the others have approved delegates to represent them at the talks.

There are around 30,000 civilians living in Sheikh Maqsoud, a district controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) forces, and the area has come under sustained attack from opposition armed groups who control areas to the north, east and west of the district.

Among the weapons used by the armed groups are unguided projectiles which cannot be accurately aimed at specific targets, including home-made “Hamim” rockets and projectiles fitted with gas canisters known as “hell cannons”.

Amnesty has obtained the names of at least 83 civilians, including 30 children, who were killed by attacks in Sheikh Maqsoud between February and April. More than 700 civilians were also injured, according to the local field hospital. Video evidence seen by Amnesty shows artillery shelling, and rocket and mortar attacks carried out by the Fatah Halab (Aleppo Conquest) coalition of armed groups in the area, targeting YPG forces. [Continue reading…]

Vice News reports: Omar’s daughter is two months old, but he still hasn’t met her. He lives in Daraya, a rebel-controlled suburb of Damascus that’s besieged by the Syrian regime. His wife and child live just a few kilometers to the west, in the neighboring rebel suburb of Moadamiya. The Syrian army cut the road between the two enclaves in January shortly before his daughter was born.

On Thursday, Omar eagerly awaited the arrival of an international aid convoy that was scheduled to bring medicine and baby formula into Daraya. The Syrian government agreed to the delivery, and it was organized by the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

It would have been the first convoy to reach Daraya since it was first besieged in 2012 — but the trucks didn’t make it to the town.

According to the ICRC, it was turned away at the last checkpoint outside of Daraya. Just minutes after the convoy was sent back, the Local Council of Daraya — a committee that operates as the local government — reported that the Syrian army had shelled a group of civilians who’d gathered to receive the aid. A father and son were killed and five other civilians were injured, the council said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group, said Syrian troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime had fired into the town.

After the shelling, Omar rushed to a nearby field hospital where the wounded were being treated.

“The people are now filled with frustration and anger,” he told VICE News via messaging app. “To be honest, at this point we no longer trust the international community or the UN.”

Though it’s just a 20-minute drive from the center of Damascus, Daraya is one of the most isolated places in Syria: it’s been under siege for over four years, and it’s one of the few areas where no aid convoys have ever been permitted to enter. According to residents interviewed by VICE News, people survive on meager meals of lentil and rice soup that are often fortified with weeds or grass. The water supply was cut off two years ago. [Continue reading…]

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