AI Accuses Syrian Militants of War Crimes

AI Accuses Syrian Militants of War Crimes
AI Accuses Syrian Militants of War Crimes

Fighting has continued throughout Syria as an international rights group accused militants of indiscriminately targeting civilians.

Syrian militant groups backed by Turkey and Saudi Arabia have carried out indiscriminate attacks on a Kurdish district in Aleppo that may amount to war crimes, a human rights group said on Friday.

Amnesty International said militant factions in Aleppo “displayed a shameful disregard for human life” when targeting the Kurdish Sheikh Maqsoud district and may have used chemical weapons earlier this year, AFP reported. Two of the militant groups—the hardline and powerful factions Ahrar al-Sham and Army of Islam—have representatives at the stalled UN-mediated peace talks in Geneva. The others have delegates representing them.

Army of Islam issued a statement in April saying a field commander had deployed an “unauthorized weapon” on Sheikh Maqsoud and would be punished. It was not immediately clear what chemical weapon was used.

  Attacks on YPG

At least 83 civilians were killed by indiscriminate shelling during attacks on the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) forces between February and April, AI said.

The YPG, which is backed by the United States in its fight against the self-styled Islamic State militant group and controls territory along the Turkish border, has for the course of the war controlled a pocket of territory in the northern Aleppo suburbs. Militants accuse the Syrian Kurds of working with the Assad government, charges the YPG denies. Amnesty called on the Persian Gulf States and Turkey to block the transfer of arms to groups committing human rights abuses and violations of international law. Turkey, which has blocked the Kurds from participating in peace talks, considers the YPG a terrorist organization and has backed militant groups to counter the Kurdish territorial gains along its border.

“The international community must not turn a blind eye to the mounting evidence of war crimes by armed opposition groups in Syria,” Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Magdalena Mughrabi said.

  Ahrar al-Sham and Army of Islam

Russia, Iran and Syria—all major players in the multi-sided conflict—want Ahrar al-Sham and Army of Islam to be recognized as terrorist organizations and excluded from any future ceasefire alongside the already listed Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front and IS.

Ahrar al-Islam is allied with Al-Nusra Front, as are a number of other militant factions.

However, the United States wants Ahrar al-Sham, as the largest militant faction in Syria, to be integrated into talks and break its relations with Al-Nusra.

The issue of which groups are recognized as terrorists remains a major sticking point in peace talks set to resume next week in Vienna. In Austria, 17 world powers will meet in an effort to hammer out a durable ceasefire, allowance of humanitarian deliveries to besieged areas and the outlines of a political transition.

The possible resumption of talks between the government and opposition in Geneva is complicated by entrenched positions on both sides. The opposition wants Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down while the government won’t budge on the issue.