Syrian civilians are facing “horrific” violence as the battle for the commercial capital Aleppo rages, Amnesty International said Thursday, lashing out primarily at regime troops for launching indiscriminate attacks.
“The use of imprecise weapons, such as unguided bombs, artillery shells and mortars by government forces has dramatically increased the danger for civilians,” Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International Senior Crisis Response Adviser, who recently returned from Aleppo, said in a statement.
Amnesty said it investigated some 30 attacks during a recent visit to Aleppo by its team in which “scores of civilians not involved in hostilities, many of them children, were killed or injured” in their homes, while queuing for bread or in places where they had taken shelter.
It said that attacks often failed to distinguish between opposition fighters and civilian residents and appeared to be randomly directed at neighbourhoods which are under the de-facto control of opposition fighters, rather than at specific military objectives.
“Civilians face a daily barrage of air and artillery strikes by government forces in different parts of the city. For many there is simply nowhere safe and families live in fear of the next attack,” said Rovera.
Some of the victims died in the very places where they had sought shelter, having been forced to flee their homes by the fighting, the statement said.
Amnesty said civilians were killed and injured while queuing for bread and cited an example of a 13-year-old girl, Kifa Samra and her 11-year-old brother Zakarya who were killed along with their neighbour, a mother of 11, on August 12 while queuing for bread near their home.
“Those responsible for indiscriminate attacks against civilians and other war crimes should expect that they will be held to account,” said Rovera.
The overwhelming majority of victims were killed in air strikes and artillery attacks by government forces, while in some cases the source of the attack could not be established, the statement said.
Amnesty also said that a further deeply disturbing development was the sharp increase in extrajudicial and summary executions of civilians not involved in the conflict by government forces.
“Bodies of mostly young men, usually handcuffed and shot in the head, have been frequently found dumped near the headquarters of the Air Force Intelligence which is completely controlled by government forces,” Amnesty said.
It also raised concerns about increased abuses, including unlawful killings and ill-treatment of captives by opposition fighters belonging to a plethora of armed opposition group, including the Free Syrian Army operating in the city.
“It is shameful that the international community remains divided over Syria, disregarding the body of evidence of the scale and the gravity of the human rights abuses in Syria and effectively looking the other way while civilians are bearing the brunt,” it added.
More than 23,000 people have been killed since the uprising in Syria began in March 2011, according to Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.