The UN Human Rights Council has issued a 37-page report on the final months of the pro-Assad assault on opposition areas of Aleppo, culminating in the reoccupation of Syria’s largest city in December.
The report rebuffs the months of Russian and Assad propaganda denying pro-Assad airstrikes on a UN convoy in September, breaking a ceasefire and ensuring that no aid would reached the besieged opposition districts in Aleppo. It documents the Russian-regime aerial assaults killed “hundreds” of people and destroying hospitals, markets, and schools, and it notes executions of civilians after the opposition neighborhoods were occupied.
The report also points to shelling of regime-held western Aleppo city by rebels, calling the fire “indiscriminate” in causing dozens of casualties. It says some factions prevented civilians leaving the eastern section as siege conditions worsens and pro-Assad units advanced on the area.
The battle for control over Aleppo city was a stage of unrelenting violence, with civilians on both sides falling victim to war crimes committed by all parties. As part of a strategy to force surrender, pro-Government forces encircled eastern Aleppo city in late July and trapped civilians without adequate food or medical supplies. Between July and December 2016, Syrian and Russian forces carried out daily air strikes, claiming hundreds of lives and reducing hospitals, schools and markets to rubble. Syrian forces also used chlorine bombs in residential areas, resulting in hundreds of civilian casualties.
Armed groups persistently shelled civilians in western Aleppo city. Using improvised weapons, these groups often fired indiscriminately in attacks that killed and injured dozens, including women and children. When launched without a clear military target, these attacks intentionally terrorized the civilian population. As the situation deteriorated in eastern Aleppo and people tried desperately to flee, some armed groups violently prevented them and used them as human shields.
In a particularly egregious attack, Syrian air forces targeted a humanitarian aid convoy in Aleppo countryside, killing more than a dozen aid workers and destroying vital supplies for civilians in need. The convoy had been authorized by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, which was aware of its location at the time of the attack. The attack led to the suspension of aid convoys throughout the Syrian Arab Republic, depriving civilians from access to essential goods.
As pro-Government forces recaptured eastern Aleppo city in December, some executed hors de combat fighters and perceived armed group supporters. Hundreds of men and boys were separated from their families and forcibly conscripted by the Syrian army. The fate of others remains unknown.
One of the UN aid trucks destroyed by regime airstrikes west of Aleppo, September 19, 2016