UN: State, rebels committed war crimes in Syria’s Ghouta
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UN: State, rebels committed war crimes in Syria’s Ghouta

Report calls on all parties to desist from sieges in the future, concluding they are characterized by war crimes

Syrian children stand in a basement used as a shelter against airstrikes on March 25, 2018, in Douma, eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of the capital Damascus. (AFP PHOTO / HAMZA AL-AJWEH)
Syrian children stand in a basement used as a shelter against airstrikes on March 25, 2018, in Douma, eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of the capital Damascus. (AFP PHOTO / HAMZA AL-AJWEH)

BEIRUT — The United Nations says that during a five-year government siege and two months of fighting earlier this year in which government forces captured eastern suburbs of the capital Damascus from rebels, both sides committed war crimes.

The UN Commission of Inquiry in a report released Wednesday in Geneva condemned the government siege on the suburbs known as eastern Ghouta, saying at least 265,000 individuals lived in the area during the “longest running siege in modern history.”

The Syrian government siege ended in April when government forces and their allies launched a crushing offensive to capture the area leaving hundreds of people dead.

The 23-page report urged all parties to the conflict in Syria to desist from resorting to sieges in the future, concluding they are characterized by war crimes.

Illustrative: Destruction in the former rebel-held town of Saqba in the Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus on April 10, 2018. (AFP Photo/Stringer)

At the start of the year Eastern Ghouta was a sprawling semi-rural area just east of Damascus, home to almost 400,000 inhabitants, which had already endured several years under a government siege that slashed access to food, medicine and other goods.

The Syrian government and allied forces launched a massive assault on February 18 to retake the enclave, which had been out of regime control since 2012.

The intense bombardment killed some 1,700 civilians according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, and pulverized the area, reducing many neighborhoods to rubble.

Damascus has been accused of carrying out an April 7 chemical weapons attack on Douma, the final part of the enclave where rebels were balking at a Russian-brokered deal to evacuate them to northern Syria.

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