Amnesty: Civilians bear brunt of Syrian government attacks on Aleppo
BEIRUT -- Civilians in the Syrian city of Aleppo are enduring a horrific level of violence as rebels and government forces continue to fight for control, Amnesty International said in a report released Thursday.
Aleppo, the country's commercial hub, has been the site of fierce clashes and daily shelling from government tanks, helicopters and fighter jets for more than a month. The majority of victims were killed in the airstrikes and artillery attacks, the human rights group said.
The report, based on first-hand field investigations by Amnesty International's staff, documented increasingly frequent and indiscriminate strikes against residential areas, seriously endangering civilians.
"The use of imprecise weapons, such as unguided bombs, artillery shells and mortars by government forces has dramatically increased the danger for civilians," said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's senior crisis response advisor, who recently returned from Aleppo.
Amnesty International said that during the 10-day investigation at the beginning of August, it looked at about 30 attacks in which scores of civilians not involved in hostilities -- many of them children -- were killed or wounded in their homes or even in homes and schools in supposedly safer neighborhoods, places to which people had fled to escape attacks.
"For many there is simply nowhere safe and families live in fear of the next attack," Rovera said.
Videos posted by Syrian activists Thursday showed once-bustling residential neighborhoods empty and their streets filled with plumes of gray smoke from shelling that can be heard above every few minutes.
The human rights group said it found a disregard for the safety of civilians in the weeks of clashes in the city, where a key battle has been taking place in the 17-month uprising against President Bashar Assad.
It said there has been a sharp increase in government forces' extrajudicial and summary executions of civilians not involved in the conflict. The discovery of bodies -- usually handcuffed and shot in the head -- dumped near the headquarters of air force intelligence has become an almost daily occurrence, it said.
"It is shameful that the international community remains divided over Syria ... and effectively looking the other way while civilians are bearing the brunt," Rovera said.
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-- Times Staff
Photo: Free Syrian Army fighters take cover as they exchange fire with government forces in the Salaheddin neighborhood of Aleppo on Wednesday. Credit: James Lawler Duggan / AFP/Getty Images