Amnesty International has issued a new report on the Syrian situation that I think answers those that continue to repeat the meaningless, and ultimately pro-Assad, platitudes like "both sides commit human rights abuses", "both sides commit war crimes." As though that was something unique about the Syrian conflict. As though that was not true about every war that has ever been fought. As though that relieves them from facing the reality that the Assad regime is on a murderous rampage, and even though the opposition may make mistakes, it is the Assad regime that overwhelmingly responsible for the human tragedy taking place every day in Syria.
PBS | Frontline had an excellent documentary on "The Battle for Syria" last night. If you missed it you can see it here.
The Amnesty International report is below the fold.
New evidence High civilian death toll from campaign of indiscriminate attacks19 September 2012
Civilians, many of them children, are the main victims of a campaign of relentless and indiscriminate attacks by the Syrian army, Amnesty International said in a new briefing.
The briefing paper (and accompanying video footage) is based on first-hand field investigations carried out in the first half of September by Amnesty International into attacks which killed 166 civilians, including 48 children and 20 women, and injured hundreds in 26 towns and villages in the Idlib, Jabal al-Zawiya and north Hama regions.
The briefing paper provides fresh evidence of a pattern which has emerged in recent weeks in areas where government forces, pushed into retreat by opposition forces, are now indiscriminately bombing and shelling lost territory with disastrous consequences for the civilian population.
Government forces now routinely bomb and shell towns and villages using battlefield weapons which cannot be aimed at specific targets, knowing that the victims of such indiscriminate attacks are almost always civilians. Such weapons should never be used in residential areas, said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International Senior Crisis Response Adviser, who recently returned from northern Syria.
The plight of the civilian population in this region of Syria has been under-reported as world attention has largely focused on the fighting in Aleppo and Damascus. But the horrors of what the residents of Idlib, Jabal al-Zawiya and north Hama endure every day is just as harrowing. Such indiscriminate attacks constitute war crimes.
Civilians are being killed or injured in their homes, while running for cover, or in the very places where they had sought refuge from the bombardments. On 16 September, eight civilians - five of them children - were killed and many more injured in a series of air strikes in Kafr Awayed in Jabal al-Zawiya. Residents told Amnesty International that seven of the victims were killed at a wedding party and in nearby houses, and a six-year-old boy was killed while buying bread.
The same pattern is repeated throughout the areas which have come under the effective control of opposition forces.
Amnesty International witnessed daily air bombardment, artillery and mortar strikes in towns and villages throughout the region. The deployment of such imprecise battlefield weapons and munitions against residential areas in recent weeks has resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of civilian casualties.
Among the victims of such attacks were 35 civilians killed in the village of Kafr Anbel in two separate air bombardments. On 28 August, four air strikes in the market square killed 22 civilians.
On 22 August, a bombardment near a grocery story killed 13 civilians, including 31-year-old Zahia al-Aabbi who collected plastic around the village and then sold it to support her mother, sisters, disabled brother and blind father.
Attacks near hospitals shortly after a large influx of casualties, or by bread queues raise suspicions that such attacks deliberately target large gatherings of civilians, a serious violation of international humanitarian law (IHL) and a war crime.
The high death toll of children documented by Amnesty International further underlines the indiscriminate nature of many attacks by the Syrian Army. In one, four children - Ghofran Habboub, her brother and two cousins - were killed when their home was bombed on 14 August in the village of Shellakh (near Idlib).
A few days later, on 18 August, a large calibre mortar landed in a street in Maarat al-Noman, south of Idlib, killing two five-year-old girls, Hajar Rajwan and Ines Sabbouh and two cousins aged 10 and 11, as they played outside their homes.
Some have been killed as they fled for cover or where they sought refuge. Hundreds have lost their lives or were injured, many of them children, in recent weeks alone, since the Syrian government forces unleashed a campaign of relentless and indiscriminate air and artillery attacks. More...
Video claims of the formation of a Christian brigade of the Free Syrian Army --- Mona Mahmood of The Guardian translates, "We the Christian young men of the revolution declare the formation of Anssarullah brigade in the Damascus countryside. We are honest soldiers who will defend the land with our Muslim brothers":
The Local Coordination Committees report that 160 people died at the hands of security forces on Tuesday, including 67 in Damascus and its suburbs --- the majority killed by aerial shelling in Hajar Aswad and Malhieha --- 30 in Deir Ez Zor Province, 26 in Aleppo Province, 16 in Idlib Province, and 11 in Daraa Province.
Syria had drifted into a pattern of, in the words of James Miller, "Lots of killing, but in the same spots."
Here are my related diaries on Syria:
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