As the battle for Aleppo continues, the victims are overwhelmingly civilians, according to a report released today by Amnesty International.
The picture painted is bleak: civilians not only caught in the crossfire but facing the worst of the conflict while in the streets, in local stores or even inside their own homes.
The Human Rights NGO spent ten days in the Northern Syrian city collecting information on government air strikes, attacks on bread queues and allegations of torture.
Despite gains made on the ground by rebel fighters, they are still very much losing the battle of the skies to regime forces. According to Amnesty, air strikes are happening daily across the city:
“The victims have been overwhelmingly civilians not involved in the fighting, many of them children. They were killed in their homes or when they ventured out, often to buy food.”
Among the victims were ten members of the same family, seven of whom were children. Whether intentional or not, these strikes are not targeting opposition fighters.
Residents of Aleppo have been under siege for such a long time that food resources are running dangerously low. Families are forced to stand in line for hours in the ‘bread queues’ to get something to eat for the day.
Tragically these queues are also subject to shelling by Syrian army forces, meaning civilians face the choice of starvation or potential death waiting in line.
According to the Amnesty report, earlier this month one of the bread queues in the Tariq al-Bab district of Aleppo was hit, killing and injuring several of those in the line. The wounded were taken to a nearby hospital for treatment but that too was targeted two days later.
For residents of Tariq al-Bab it’s incomprehensible that their government would attack its own people. One Aleppo native spoke to Amnesty about their bewilderment:
“There is no FSA either in our area, so we did not expect any attack because normally from what we know it is the areas where there is FSA that get bombed. Now we are also being bombed by the state which is supposed to protect us and we don’t understand why.”
For weeks, the international media has focused on videos showing the FSA executing prisoners but government forces have been doing the same. According to the report, these government prisoners are primarily civilians with no involvement in the conflict.
“Bodies of mostly young men, usually handcuffed and shot in the head, have been frequently found dumped in an around al-Zahra district in the north-west of the city. The area is home to the headquarters of the notorious Air Force Intelligence and as is completely controlled by government forces.”
The Air Force Intelligence are involving themselves in all aspects of civilians’ lives, terrorizing the local population. One source told Amnesty that a neighbor’s house had been stormed after their son posted anti-regime comments on the internet. Later that same day bodies of the family were found in their car alongside two unidentified burned corpses.
With nowhere safe to run to, even inside their own homes, Syrians in Aleppo are facing an impossible situation. Clearly their government is not differentiating between soldiers and non-combatants but they do not have the arms to defend themselves.
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