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UN Panel Alleges Aleppo War Crimes

A UN panel has said the evacuation of eastern Aleppo, after months of siege and bombardments by Russian and Syrian forces, was one of many war crimes committed by those fighting for control of Syria's second-largest city.

The Commission of Inquiry on Syria on March 1 unveiled a report looking at violations by all parties in last year's battle for Aleppo, including the indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas, the use of chemical weapons and cluster munitions, and forced evacuations.

The deal to evacuate rebel-held eastern Aleppo allowed no civilians to remain in the city at the end of the protracted campaign, something the commission concluded amounted to "the war crime of forced displacement."

"The scale of what happened in Aleppo is unprecedented in the Syrian conflict," said the commission's chairman, Paulo Pinheiro.

The report looked at violations committed between July 21, when the siege of the rebel-held part of Aleppo started, and December 22, when Syrian troops and allied forces assumed full control of the city.

The commission said war crimes were committed by both sides from July until the city fell on 22 December.

However, it levelled extensive criticism at the government of President Bashar al-Assad, which was backed by Russian jets and Iranian-backed militias throughout the campaign.

A focal point of the probe was the accusation that Syrian war planes had conducted air strikes on September 19 targeting an aid convoy, which had been permitted by the government to deliver food and medicines to the Urum al-Kubra area west of Aleppo.

The report said the evidence strongly suggested that the attack which resulted in the killing of 20 civilians and aid workers was "meticulously planned and ruthlessly carried out."

The attack on the convoy, followed by the suspension of aid deliveries served as a "starve or surrender" policy pursued by the regime in east Aleppo and other opposition-held areas of Syria, the commission said.

The UN also accused Assad's government of repeatedly using chemical weapons and cluster munitions, and systematically destroying hospitals.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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