Aleppo civilians

A new report from Amnesty International has claimed that ruthless aerial bombardment of opposition-held areas by the Syrian Government forces in Aleppo, has forced many civilians to live in basements or underground bunkers.

Entitled ‘Death everywhere: War crimes and human rights abuses in Aleppo’, the report details the devastation and bloodshed reportedly caused by explosives laden barrel bombs dropped by regime forces on schools, hospitals, mosques and crowded markets, and concludes that some of the actions amount to crimes against humanity.

The report alleges that the barrel bombs attacks killed more than 3,000 civilians in Aleppo governorate in 2014, and more than 11,000 in the country since 2012, with local activists recording at least 85 barrel bomb attacks in the city last month, which killed 110 civilians.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa programme director Philip Luther said: "These reprehensible and continual strikes on residential areas point to a policy of deliberately and systematically targeting civilians in attacks that constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity."

As evidence, the report documented survivors of the eight barrel bomb attacks, even though the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad categorically denied usage of barrel bombs by his forces in a media interview in February.

Amnesty also accused armed opposition groups of committing war crimes in Aleppo by using imprecise weapons such as mortars and improvised rockets fitted with gas canisters called ‘hell cannons’ in attacks that killed at least 600 civilians in 2014.

"Strikes on residential areas point to a policy of deliberately and systematically targeting civilians in attacks that constitute war crimes."

The UN passed a resolution calling for an end to human rights abuses, and specifically barrel bomb attacks in 2014, threatening with consequences over failure to comply.

Luther said: "Continued inaction is being interpreted by perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity as a sign they can continue to hold the civilians of Aleppo hostage without fear of any retribution.

"A referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court would send a signal that those ordering and committing these crimes can be brought to justice and could help stem the spiral of abuses."

In addition, the organisation documents widespread torture, arbitrary detention and abduction by both parties, and urged all sides to allow unhindered humanitarian access to agencies delivering aid in Aleppo and across Syria.

Image: Wounded civilians arrive at a hospital in Aleppo, Syria. Photo: courtesy of Voice of America News: Scott Bobb reports from Aleppo, Syria.