(Breaking Update) Syria: ‘Yes’ on Chemical Weapons Attacks — and More

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Breaking Update:

Reuters:

France’s U.N. ambassador, Gerard Araud, told reporters that Monday is the tentative date for Ban to present Sellstrom’s report to the Security Council and other U.N. member states.

Original Post:

It is widely expected that the United Nations report on the August 21 massacre of more than one thousand innocent men, women and children in Syria will “overwhelmingly” show that chemical weapons were used.

While it has also been repeatedly reported that the U.N.-commissioned report would not determine who launched the attack, “[I]n an apparently off-the-cuff response to a question that caught even his press office by surprise, [Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general] also said he believed that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria ‘has committed many crimes against humanity,’” according to the New York Times.

The Times continues, “[Mr. Ban’s] remarks quickly spread via Twitter messages and immediately raised the question of whether he knew or had judged the report’s conclusions.

It is also possible that Mr. Ban was referring to other Syrian government atrocities that are now coming to light.

For example, today, the Times reports that Syria has been using “hospital attacks as ‘weapons of war.”

In a lengthy, disturbing piece, we read that,

Syrian government forces are systematically attacking hospitals and medical staff members and denying treatment to the sick and wounded from areas controlled or affiliated with the opposition, United Nations investigators said Friday in a new report that also detailed the use of hospitals as torture centers by military intelligence agencies.

“The denial of medical care as a weapon of war is a distinct and chilling reality of the war in Syria,” the United Nations Commission of Inquiry, which is monitoring human rights in Syria, said in its report. The panel said pro-government forces carried out such attacks “as a matter of policy,” but it also documented instances of attacks on hospitals by opposition forces.

The UN report cites “a string of attacks on hospitals that were shelled by artillery or bombed by jets, often after aerial reconnaissance by helicopters. A public hospital in the northern city of Aleppo came under fire from helicopters and was hit by rockets and a missile strike…”

The report describes how “government forces have engaged in agonizing cruelty against the sick and wounded…identifying a number of government intelligence agencies that have used hospitals as torture chambers.”

But the report also says, “Both sides have flouted the laws of war by positioning troops, snipers and even tanks in or around medical facilities, exposing them to danger.”

And the horrors continue.

In a late Friday Times piece, Robert Mackey reports that:

A Human Rights Watch report released on Friday concluded that forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, armed with just guns and knives, “executed at least 248 people in the towns of al-Bayda and Baniyas on May 2 and 3,” many of them women and children.

The 78-page report — based on 20 witness accounts and a forensic examination of video apparently recorded by participants in the deadly crackdown on the rebellious towns and nearby as the killing unfolded — was published the same day as a searing video report based on the same evidence was broadcast and posted online by Channel 4 News in Britain.

Read more here

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Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist