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US, Syria and Russia strikes may amount to war crimes – UN investigators

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — The US-led coalition has carried out air strikes in Syria that have caused heavy civilian casualties, United Nations investigators said on Wednesday, signaling ignorance of warnings and possible war crimes.

A report by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria said the Syrian government planes and their Russian allies were also waging a bloody campaign that appeared to systematically target medical facilities, schools, markets and farms, which could also amount to war crimes.

Investigators also accused HTS, an alliance of militant groups known as Jabhat al-Nusra and the most prominent militant group in Idlib, by indiscriminately firing rockets and killing civilians.

The coalition’s Operation Storm Al Jazeera has resulted in a large number of civilian casualties, including a series of strikes on Jan. 3 on the Shuafah area south of Hybrid that killed 16 civilians, including 12 children, the report said.

“The Commission finds reasonable grounds to believe that international coalition forces may not have directed their attacks towards a specific military objective or failed to do so with the necessary precautionary measures,” it said.

“The indiscriminate attacks leading to the killing and injury of civilians amount to a war crime in cases where such attacks are carried out in a reckless manner.”

Coalition officials were not available to comment on the report.

Investigators said nightly attacks by SDF forces backed by coalition helicopter gunships killed and wounded civilians in Shuhail and other parts of Deir Ezzor province in other apparent violations of international law.

The report said Syrian government forces carried out repeated air strikes in Saraqeb, northwest of Idlib province, on March 9 and destroyed Hayat hospital for women and children, although pro-government forces were aware of their coordinates.

On May 14 in Idlib, “pro-government forces fired two to four rockets at a fish market and a girls’ primary school in Jisr al-Shughour,” killing at least eight civilians, the report said.

“Such attacks could amount to a war crime by deliberately attacking protected personnel and deliberately attacking health workers,” the report said.

Syrian government forces deny targeting civilians and say their forces are bombing militants linked only to al Qaeda-linked militant groups.

The report covers the period from the beginning of the year to July and is based on 300 interviews and analysis of satellite images, photographs and video recordings.

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