G8 ministers remain deadlocked as violence escalates in Syria

Human Rights Watch accused government of indiscriminate bombings of civilians

Syrian army soldiers  prepare for an offensive in Aleppo’s Liramoun area yesterday. Photograph: George Ourfalian/Reuters

Syrian army soldiers prepare for an offensive in Aleppo’s Liramoun area yesterday. Photograph: George Ourfalian/Reuters

Fri, Apr 12, 2013, 13:51

The Group of Eight foreign ministers meeting in London yesterday continued to disagree over Syria, calling for greater humanitarian aid for the populace and for a “political transition”, but failing to take action against the government.

The ministers – from the US, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Canada and Russia – remain divided with London and Paris pressing for the lifting of the arms embargo on the rebels while Russia and Germany are firmly opposed and the US straddles the fence.

The impasse persisted as Human Rights Watch charged Syria with indiscriminate and in some instances deliberate aerial bombings of civilians, slaying 4,300 since last July when the air force joined battle with the rebels seeking the ouster of president Bashar al-Assad.

In its 94-page report, HRW said, “The aim of these airstrikes appears to be to terrorize civilians from the air, particularly in the opposition-controlled areas [in the north] where they would otherwise be fairly safe from any effects of fighting.”

Unlawful strikes
The group’s team investigated 52 sites at which 152 people were killed and produced evidence of 59 allegedly unlawful strikes.

Among the sites where the team conducted interviews were four bakeries where civilians were targeted in breadlines eight times and two hospitals struck seven times. No military targets were said to be near the sites.

War planes and helicopters were also said to have dropped “imprecise and inherently indiscriminate” bombs on civilian areas. HRW deemed the attacks “serious violations of international humanitarian law” and accused those responsible of “war crimes.”

Clashes were reported in Deir al-Zor in the east, Aleppo in the north, and the suburbs of Damascus while up to 57 people were slain during an assault on the rebel-held town of Sanamein in the southern province of Deraa, the opposition Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

At least 26 civilians were said to be among the fatalities in the strategic town, located near the Jordanian border where rebels had hoped to establish a staging area for bringing in reinforcements, supplies and arms.