The US secretary of state John Kerry has called for Russia and Syria to face “war crimes” investigations for bombing of civilian targets.
“Russia, and the regime, owe the world more than an explanation about why they keep hitting hospitals and medical facilities and children,” he said.
Kerry also claimed that Syrian forces hit “another hospital” in Aleppo overnight, killing 20 people and wounding 100. There has been no confirmation of the attack from either government or rebel sources.
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He said Russian and Syrian government attacks on hospitals were “beyond the accidental” and part of a deliberate strategy in war-torn Syria.
“This is a targeted strategy to terrorise civilians and to kill anybody and everybody who is in the way of their military objective”.
Syrian jets, backed by the Russian air force, are targeting militants in East Aleppo after jihadist groups in control of the enclave there repeatedly violated the cessation of hostilities, according to Moscow and Damascus.
UN estimates put the number of militants in East Aleppo between six and eight thousand, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, about half of whom belong to the terrorist organization Al-Nusra Front. Russia is prepared to urge the Syrian government to let them depart the city, Lavrov added.
UN’s envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, personally offered to escort the militants out.
“If you [Al-Nusra] did decide to leave, in dignity with your weapons, to Idlib or anywhere you wanted to go, I personally am ready, physically ready, to accompany you,” he said on Thursday.
Kerry’s words were an attempt to distract from Washington’s failure to implement the Syrian ceasefire, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Friday.
“Kerry’s statement – this is propaganda. There are some very serious legal consequences behind this terminology, and I think that Kerry used all of these terms to inflame the situation,” Zakharova said.
“If it comes to war crimes, US representatives should start with Iraq. And then move to Libya, and of course to Yemen – find out what’s there. I want to say that juggling these words is very dangerous, because there are indeed war crimes on the part of the American representatives,” Zakharova told Dozhd TV.
Washington suspended bilateral contacts with Russia over the Syrian crisis on Monday, accusing Moscow of not doing enough to restrain the government in Damascus. The Foreign Ministry in Moscow said that Russia had made every effort to preserve the September 9 ceasefire agreement, while repeatedly urging Washington to live up to its obligations and separate the so-called “moderate opposition” fighters from Al-Nusra and other terrorists.
Kerry’s remarks come as the Syrian Army made advances in the Sheikh Saeed district of Aleppo, on the southern side of the rebel-held enclave. Even as government bombardment has lessened, shelling from the rebel side killed 11 people in the government-held Al-Jamaliyeh neighborhood on Thursday.
Authorities in Damascus have said “there is no other option” but to continue to fight the rebels until they leave Aleppo.