Syrian, Russian airstrikes in Idlib amount to war crimes, as do extremist attacks — UN

Saher al-Ali's family members stand inside their damaged house in the rebel-held town of Nairab, Idlib region, Syria April 17, 2020. Picture taken April 17, 2020. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 07 July 2020

Syrian, Russian airstrikes in Idlib amount to war crimes, as do extremist attacks — UN

  • UN blames Syrian, Russian planes for bombing schools, hospitals and markets in Idlib

GENEVA: Syrian and Russian planes have carried out deadly aerial strikes amounting to war crimes on schools, hospitals and markets in Idlib province, UN investigators said on Tuesday in a report that also condemned attacks by extremist fighters.
They said that “indiscriminate bombardment” by pro-government forces, ahead of a March cease-fire brokered with Turkey, claimed hundreds of lives and forced nearly one million civilians to flee, which may amount to a crime against humanity.
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria also accused Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), a extremist group that controls part of northwest Syria, of firing artillery into civilian areas “with no apparent legitimate military objective.”
Fighters from HTS, a group formerly known as Nusra Front, have tortured and executed detainees, it added.
“What is clear from the military campaign is that pro-government forces and UN-designated terrorists flagrantly violated the laws of war and the rights of Syrian civilians,” Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the UN panel, said in a statement.
The report, covering Nov. 2019 until June 2020, was based on overflight data and witness testimony.
It examines 52 “emblematic attacks” in northwest Syria, including 47 attributed to the Russian-backed Syrian government.
Russian warplanes were solely implicated in a deadly March 5 strike on a poultry farm near Marat Misrin that sheltered displaced people and in three strikes next to a hospital damaged in the rebel-held town of Ariha on Jan. 29, the report said. Russia denies involvement in the latter attack, it said.
The region is home to a mix of Islamist militant and opposition groups, many of which fled other parts of Syria as President Bashar Assad, with Russian backing, seized back territory from them.
“The Commission has reasonable grounds to believe that pro-government forces committed the war crimes of deliberately attacking medical personnel and facilities by conducting airstrikes,” it said.
Karen Koning AbuZayd, a panel member, said: “Women, men and children that we interviewed faced the ghastly choice of being bombarded or fleeing deeper into HTS-controlled areas where there are rampant abuses of human rights...
“The acts by HTS members amount to war crimes.”


East Mediterranean states formally establish Egypt-based gas forum

Updated 22 September 2020

East Mediterranean states formally establish Egypt-based gas forum

  • Egypt, Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Jordan established the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) as an intergovernmental organization in a virtual ceremony hosted by Cairo
  • The group unites regional rivals of Turkey, which has been locked in a bitter dispute with European Union members Greece and Cyprus over gas drilling rights in the region

CAIRO: Six states signed a charter for an Egypt-based energy forum on Tuesday, giving formal status to a group that seeks to promote natural gas exports from the eastern Mediterranean and that Israel hopes will strengthen ties with Arab neighbors.
Egypt, Israel, Greece, Cyprus, Italy and Jordan established the East Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF) as an intergovernmental organization in a virtual ceremony hosted by Cairo.
The group unites regional rivals of Turkey, which has been locked in a bitter dispute with European Union members Greece and Cyprus over gas drilling rights in the region.
The Palestinian Authority is also part of the forum, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a statement.
France has applied to join, with the United States and European Union requesting observer status.
For Israel, the forum “brings regional cooperation with Arab and European countries, the first of its kind in history, with contracts to export (Israeli) gas to Jordan and Egypt worth $30 billion, and that is just the beginning,” added Steinitz.
Egypt began importing Israeli gas at the start of this year, for possible re-export to Europe or Asia.
The 2015 discovery of the giant offshore Zohr field had unlocked interest in Egypt’s energy market and encouraged Cairo to promote itself as a regional hub.
However, regional politics, infrastructure and transport costs, and rivalry between Turkey and eastern Mediterranean neighbors, complicate prospects for exploiting and transporting gas from the region.