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United Nations accuses Assad of war crimes

07 September 2017, 02:08 | Clyde Nash

Syria's players celebrate a goal in their World Cup qualifying game against China in June

Syria's players celebrate a goal in their World Cup qualifying game against China in June

April 4, 2017: Warplanes strike the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun in the northwestern province of Idlib with a chemical agent, killing at least 83 people.

The UN is said to possess sufficient evidence to make such accusations.

Investigations are ongoing into allegations that global coalition airstrikes, carried out as part of the ongoing offensive to repel ISIL from Raqqa, have resulted in increasingly alarming numbers of civilian casualties.

The attack on Khan Sheikhoun - which left 28 children and 23 women among the dead - prompted a retaliatory strike by the United States on the airfield from where the Sukhoi-22 aeroplane took off.

"Eyewitnesses and early warning reports identified the aircraft as a Su-22, which only the Syrian air force operates", the report said.

The report said the USA broke worldwide law when attacking a mosque in Aleppo on March 16.

Mosques are protected under global humanitarian law and must not be attacked unless they are used for military purposes, such as if an Al Qaeda meeting was being held there.

In presenting its findings in June, U.S. Central Command said the strike was justified because Al Qaeda fighters were holding a meeting at the prayer hall, but United Nations investigators found no evidence of such a meeting - only villagers gathering for a religious lecture that was to be followed by evening prayers and a meal.

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Mr Pinheiro said that investigators had not found any evidence to suggest such a meeting was taking place.

Locals told the commission that the meetings were "a regular occurrence" and a "religious gathering".

The Commission is gravely concerned that this offensive has led to the internal displacement of some 190,000 persons, with the fate of some 20,000 others precarious as they remain trapped in ar-Raqqah city, many of them civilians that ISIL reportedly forced to concentrate in areas under its control.

The Assad government has denied using chemical weapons in the past and claimed that the Khan Sheikhoun attack was the result of hitting a rebel weapons cache during a routine airstrike.

"Reporting on such heinous crimes and violations is the core of our work", said the Commission Chair, adding that the panel has a duty to attribute responsibility accordingly, regardless of the perpetrator.

Russian forces have been active in Syria supporting the army of Bashar al-Assad since September 2015. The aerial campaign targeted medical facilities, weakening the ability of many civilians to seek help.

A press release issued by the Commission noted that such attacks constitute clear violations of global humanitarian law and the Convention on Chemical Weapons, which Syria ratified in 2013 following a previous sarin attack. While it's true that chlorine has multiple industrial uses, the same can not be said of Sarin gas used in several attacks over the last few years.

The OPCW confirmed in June that Sarin was used, but it did not state who was behind the attack. It was among four chemical attacks the commission tallied over the span of its investigation - including the use of "weaponized chlorine" in three other locations.



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