The article, Amnesty International: Syria: Armed Opposition Groups Committing War Crimes in Aleppo City, originally published here on 14 May 2016, has been made an appendix. At face value, the article appeared to confirm what candobetter and other news sources (as opposed to the msm) have been writing about the terrorist invaders. However, concealed within the article is the claim that "the scale of war crimes by government forces is far greater" i.e. precisely the same narrative that is clearly intended by the Western msm to justify the expansion of the current war, ostensibly against Islamic State, into a war to remove the allegedly even more brutal 'regime' of President Bashar al-Assad.
Russian and Syrian government forces appear to have deliberately and systematically targeted hospitals and other medical facilities over the last three months to pave the way for ground forces to advance on northern Aleppo, an examination of airstrikes by Amnesty International has found.
Even as Syria's fragile ceasefire deal was being hammered out, Syrian government forces and their allies intensified their attacks on medical facilities.
"Syrian and Russian forces have been deliberately attacking health facilities in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law. But what is truly egregious is that wiping out hospitals appears to have become part of their military strategy," said Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International.
"The latest string of attacks on health facilities north of Aleppo appears to be part of a pattern of attacks on medics and hospitals, a strategy that has destroyed scores of medical facilities and killed hundreds of doctors and nurses since the start of the conflict."
The organization has gathered compelling evidence of at least six deliberate attacks on hospitals, medical centres and clinics in the northern part of the Aleppo Countryside governorate in the past 12 weeks. The attacks, which killed at least three civilians including a medical worker, and injured 44 more, continue a pattern of targeting health facilities in various parts of Syria which amounts to war crimes.
The press release also made more claims against the Syrian government, Syrian Army and Russian military forces including:
The Syrian government was attempting "to empty an entire town or village of residents by targeting hospitals and infrastructure to facilitate the ground invasion";
A doctor from Anadan said: "Hospitals, water and electricity are always the first to be attacked. Once that happens people no longer have services to survive ...";
"Hospitals in opposition-controlled areas around Aleppo became a primary target for the Russian and Syrian government forces. This eliminated a vital lifeline for the civilians living in those embattled areas, leaving them no choice but to flee," said Tirana Hassan.
There were no military vehicles, checkpoints, fighters or front lines near the hospitals that were attacked and that the hospitals were exclusively serving their humanitarian function;
At least 27 hospitals, including eight in Aleppo governorate, have been targeted by Russian and Syrian government forces since September 2015. A total of four medical staff workers and 45 civilians were killed in these 14 attacks;
The above story is now difficult to find on the Amnesty International web-site as they no doubt fear that people who read it are likely to learn that it has no more factual basis than Amnesty's previous claims that invading Iraqis cast prematurely born babies out of incubators onto the floors of Kuwaiti hospitals in 1990 or their claims against the Libyan government in 2011.
The other report by Shamnesty, sorry, Amnesty International, republished in the Appendix below, repeats the same lie peddled by the mainstream and phony alternate media since the armed conflict began in March 2011: "the scale of war crimes by government forces is far greater".
This begs the question, if both the regime and the rebels are slaughtering the same Syrian civilians, then why can't they just stop shooting each other and just work together?
Anyone who has properly informed herself/himself about the Syrian conflict from our Syria pages and other alternate newsmedia linked to from those pages, would know that the Syrian Arab Army has, in fact, been defending the people of Syria and itself from precisely the same forces that Amnesty International claims, in this press release, to oppose, that is tens of thousands of invaders, from all corners of the globe paid for and armed by the United States, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and their allies.
So far 80,000 soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army have lost their lives fighting this invasion. 1
If Amnesty International truly cared about the welfare of the civilians of which it writes in the above press release, it would not have smeared the government of Syria and its heroic army. Instead it would be pointing its finger firmly at all those countries who have been arming, paying and giving passage and sanctuary the terrorists, including the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and France.
This media release includes the claim that "the scale of war crimes by government forces is far greater."
"Amnesty International is calling on the Gulf states, Turkey and others believed to be providing support to armed groups in Syria to immediately block the transfer of arms to armed groups, including logistical and financial support for such transfers ...." This article comes from a press release from Amnesty International, which usually takes the 'rebel' side, but which here seems unable to close its eyes to the brutality of the so-called 'rebels', although Amnesty continues to hedge its bets and toe the US/NATO line by implying that the Gulf States, Turkey and others supporting armed groups might continue to supply, "those groups that meet stringent reliability tests which demonstrate that they can act consistently with full respect for international human rights and humanitarian law should be considered for future supply." What groups might they be? we ask. We are publishing this press release here because it is unlikely to be prominently reported in any NATO sympathising mainstream press, despite the importance of this awful news. The theory (not voiced here) is that the ceasefire in Syria and the withdrawal of Russia has been exploited by the rebels against the Syrian Arab Army (government army) maintenance of ceasefire, to the disadvantage of Syrians.
[Amnesty International: Friday, May 13, 2016 - 11:00am:WASHINGTON] Armed groups surrounding the Sheikh Maqsoud district of Aleppo city have repeatedly carried out indiscriminate attacks that have struck civilian homes, streets, markets and mosques, killing and injuring civilians and displaying a shameful disregard for human life, said Amnesty International.
The organization has gathered strong evidence of serious violations from eyewitnesses, and obtained the names of at least 83 civilians, including 30 children, who were killed by attacks in Sheikh Maqsoud between February and April 2016. More than 700 civilians were also injured, according to the local field hospital. Video evidence seen by Amnesty International shows artillery shelling, rocket and mortar attacks carried out by the Fatah Halab (Aleppo Conquest) coalition of armed groups in the area, targeting the Kurdish People's Protection Unit (YPG) controlling the area.
"The relentless pummelling of Sheikh Maqsoud has devastated the lives of civilians in the area. A wide array of armed groups from the Fatah Halab coalition has launched what appear to be repeated indiscriminate attacks that may amount to war crimes," said Magdalena Mughrabi, interim Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.
There are around 30,000 civilians living in Sheikh Maqsoud which is a predominately Kurdish part of Aleppo city. The area is controlled by YPG forces and surrounded from the northern, eastern and western fronts by opposition armed groups who have targeted it from all three sides. Syrian government forces control areas south of Sheikh Maqsoud. In 2014, YPG forces started fighting against the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS). In recent months however tensions have increased with opposition armed groups, particularly in the Aleppo area. Attacks by armed groups have killed at least 62 YPG fighters, according to the Families of the Martyrs Association.
In recent days the very fragile cessation of hostilities across Syria agreed to in Geneva in February was extended to areas around Sheikh Maqsoud in the Aleppo Countryside governorate. However, attacks on Sheikh Maqsoud have continued unabated over the past few months.
Satellite imagery, obtained by Amnesty International and corroborated by testimony from residents, shows destroyed and badly damaged houses in a residential street in the western part of Sheikh Maqsoud, more than 800 metres away from the frontline.
Mohamad lost seven members of his family when his home in Sheikh Maqsoud was struck by an improvised ‘Hamim' rocket launched by an armed group on 5 April 2016. Those killed included his 18-month-old daughter, his two sons, aged 15 and 10, and an eight-year-old nephew. He and two of his other young nephews sustained shrapnel wounds and were critically injured. His home is 800 metres away from the frontline.
"There are no [military] checkpoints near my house. It is a residential street and there are even people displaced by fighting or who fled airstrikes in Aleppo city living on the same street," he told Amnesty International.
Two days earlier Mohamad's neighbour's house was hit by a mortar which killed two children.
Another resident of Sheikh Maqsoud told Amnesty International that the shelling intensified in February and that people spent days in their homes unable to leave. She described how her home was attacked in April by what she believed was a weapon fitted with a gas canister.
"All I remember was the walls collapsing and hearing an explosion. We got injured – I had shrapnel in my hands and legs […] We live […] very far away from the frontline. There are no checkpoints close by or any other military points," she said.
Saad, a local pharmacist living in Sheikh Maqsoud, described 5 April 2016 as "the bloodiest day the neighbourhood had witnessed". Shelling from armed groups continued for nine hours straight, he said.
"We counted at least 15 Hamim rockets and more than 100 mortars. The shells were falling everywhere, it was indiscriminate," he said.
Among the weapons used by the armed groups are unguided projectiles which cannot be accurately aimed at specific targets such as mortars and home-made ‘Hamim' rockets, as well as other projectiles fitted with gas canisters which are known as "hell cannons". These weapons are inherently indiscriminate and should not be used in the vicinity of civilian areas.
"By firing imprecise explosive weapons into civilian neighbourhoods the armed groups attacking Sheikh Maqsoud are flagrantly flouting the principle of distinction between civilian and military targets, a cardinal rule of international humanitarian law," said Magdalena Mughrabi.
There are also allegations that members of armed groups attacking Sheikh Maqsoud may have used chemical weapons. A local doctor told Amnesty International that on 7 and 8 April he treated six civilians and two YPG fighters for symptoms including shortness of breath, numbness, red eyes and severe coughing fits. Several of the victims, he said, reported seeing yellow smoke as missiles impacted. A toxicologist consulted by Amnesty International, who viewed video-clips of the apparent attack and reviewed the doctor's testimony, said the patients' symptoms could be the effects of a chlorine attack. A subsequent statement purportedly issued by the leader of the Army of Islam armed group said that a field commander had deployed an "unauthorised weapon" on Sheikh Maqsoud and that he would be held to account.
Two of the armed groups attacking YPG forces in Sheikh Maqsoud - Ahrar al Sham and Army of Islam - have sent their own representatives to the UN-brokered negotiations over the Syria conflict in Geneva. The other armed groups have approved other delegates to represent them at the talks.
"The international community must not turn a blind eye to the mounting evidence of war crimes by armed opposition groups in Syria.The fact that the scale of war crimes by government forces is far greater is no excuse for tolerating serious violations by the opposition," said Magdalena Mughrabi.
The terrifying accounts from civilians in Sheikh Maqsoud shed light on the horror of daily life in pockets of the city under constant attack by armed groups that are violating the laws of war with impunity.
"International backers of armed groups operating in Syria must ensure they are not fuelling abuses by transferring weapons that are being used or might be used by armed groups to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law," said Magdalena Mughrabi.
Amnesty International is calling on the Gulf states, Turkey and others believed to be providing support to armed groups in Syria to immediately block the transfer of arms to armed groups, including logistical and financial support for such transfers, where there is credible evidence that they have committed serious human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. Only those groups that meet stringent reliability tests which demonstrate that they can act consistently with full respect for international human rights and humanitarian law should be considered for future supply.
As well as being subjected to indiscriminate shelling, civilians in Sheikh Maqsoud are effectively trapped in the area amid a deteriorating humanitarian situation. Continuing clashes have prevented aid from entering Sheikh Maqsoud and people from leaving. Government forces have only allowed civilians requiring medical attention out of the area on the side that they control and have also restricted the entry of medical supplies and food – with only vegetables and bread allowed in. According to residents, the pharmacies in Sheikh Maqsoud are empty, many have shut down.
"We barely have any food left in the neighbourhood," one resident said adding that aid supplies were running out rapidly.
"Sheikh Maqsoud is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. It is critical that the Syrian government and armed groups urgently allow unfettered access for humanitarian aid and allow civilians who wish to leave the area to do so," said Magdalena Mughrabi.
The armed groups carrying out indiscriminate attacks on the Sheikh Maqsoud area are part of the Fatah Halab military coalition which includes: Islamic Movement of Ahrar ash-Sham, Army of Islam, al-Shamia Front, Brigade of Sultan Murad, Sultan Fatih Battalions, Fa Istaqim Kama Omirt Battalions, Nour al-Deen Zinki Battalions, 13 Brigade, 16 Brigade, 1st Regiment (al-Foj al-Awal) and Abu Omara Battalions.
According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights at least 23 civilians were killed by YPG shelling and sniper attacks in opposition-held areas in Aleppo city between February and April 2016.
1. ↑ Another estimate of of the number of Syria's military dead since 2011 is 60,000, which is somewhat less terrible than 80,000. This lower figure, which does not include the larger number of civilian dead, is still roughly the same as the number of Australians who died in that terrible inter-imperialist slaughter of the early twentieth century, otherwise known as the 'First World War'.