UN ‘failed to prevent’ Syria crimes: opposition

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Photo showing a wounded Syrian child rests after receiving treatment at a makeshift clinic during Syrian government air strikes on Zamalka, in the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus on March 17, 2018. (AFP)
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Syrians walk along a destroyed street in the rebel-held town of Arbin in Eastern Ghouta close to Damascus, Mar 16, 2018. (AFP)
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A wounded Syrian rests after receiving treatment at a makeshift clinic during Syrian government air strikes on Zamalka, in the rebel enclave of Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus, Mar 17, 2018. (AFP)
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Syrian civilians evacuate from the town of Jisreen in the southern Eastern Ghouta, close to the capital Damascus, on their way to areas under government control on Mar 17, 2018. (AFP)
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Photo showing injured civilians in make shift field clinic in Zamalka in Damascus's Easyern Ghouta, Mar 17, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 17 March 2018

UN ‘failed to prevent’ Syria crimes: opposition

RIYADH: The head of Syria’s main opposition group on Saturday accused the United Nations of failing to prevent violence raging in the war-wracked country, including the assault on the Eastern Ghouta rebel enclave.
“We hold the United Nations, the Security Council and the international community ... directly responsible for their silence around these crimes and for failing to take action to prevent these crimes,” Nasr Al-Hariri, president of the Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC), told reporters in Riyadh.
“But let us not forget that the party that holds direct responsibility for the crimes are the Syrian regime and the countries that continue to stand by it.”
Russian-backed Syrian regime forces have waged a blistering assault on Eastern Ghouta that has retaken 70 percent of the enclave near Damascus since February 18.
The offensive has killed around 1,400 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor which relies on a network of sources on the ground.
The assault has sparked an exodus with more than 40,000 civilians pouring into surrounding government-held areas over the past 48 hours.
More than 350,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since the Syria war broke out in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government


Turkey accused of using illegal phosphorus munitions in Syria

Updated 36 min 51 sec ago

Turkey accused of using illegal phosphorus munitions in Syria

  • Reports are credible, expert tells Arab News
  • Hospitals report spike in burns victims

ANKARA: Accusations that Turkey has used banned incendiary weapons against civilians in its invasion of northern Syria are credible, a leading security analyst told Arab News on Saturday.

Kurdish leaders said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s fighter jets had dropped munitions containing napalm and white phosphorus on civilian targets in the border town of Ras Al-Ain, a key objective for Turkish troops.

“The Turkish aggression is using all available weapons against Ras Al-Ain,” the Kurdish administration said. “Faced with the obvious failure of his plan, Erdogan is resorting to weapons that are globally banned, such as phosphorus and napalm.”

Nicholas Heras, an analyst at the Center for New American Security, told Arab News: “There are now multiple credible reports that Turkey has used white phosphorus munitions in its campaign in northeast Syria, and especially against the stubborn defenders of the city of Ras Al-Ain.”

The attacks on Ras Al-Ain are being investigated by UN chemical weapons inspectors, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and Human Rights Watch. 

OPCW said it had “not yet determined the credibility of these allegations,” and its inspectors were monitoring the situation.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Erdogan’s jets ‘dropped munitions containing napalm and white phosphorus in Ras Al-Ain.’
  • The attacks are being probed by UN chemical weapons inspectors and Human Rights Watch.
  • A video posted on social media shows children with burns that a doctor says were consistent with the use of banned weapons.

If the use of banned incendiary weapons were proved, it would be a grave violation of Turkey’s pledge to wage war with concern for civilian lives, Heras said.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said there had been a spike in burn wounds treated at the Syrian-Kurdish hospital at Tal Tamir, mostly casualties brought in from the Ras Al-Ain area. 

The Kurdish Red Crescent said at least six people were being treated in hospital for burns. 

Kurdish officials posted a video on social media showing children with burns that one doctor in Hasakeh province said were consistent with the use of banned weapons.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a British chemical weapons expert, told the UK newspaper The Times that the burns appeared to have been caused by white phosphorus.

The substance may be used to create a smoke screen, or as a battlefield marker, especially at night, but its use as an incendiary weapon is prohibited under international law.

Since 1997, Turkey has been a signatory to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction.

Dr. Willem Theo Oosterveld, a senior fellow at the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, said the deployment of white phosphorus was not explicitly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions. 

However, he said, under humanitarian law “the use of means and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering is prohibited.”