U.N: Syrian government troops, rebels both target civilians

yria’s conflict, which began in March 2011, has killed more than 220,000 people, according to U.N. figures

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In Syria’s civil war, both government forces and opposition fighters are targeting civilians in a way that has led to “unspeakable suffering,” U.N. investigators said Tuesday.

The assessment, in a report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, sought to draw attention to the plight of the civilians, saying that with “each passing day there are fewer safe places in Syria.”

Government forces have consistently failed to employ precision weapons “when attacking targets in dense urban areas, causing mass civilian casualties,” the report said.

It said the government’s use of barrel bombs in aerial attacks against whole areas rather than specific targets, “is in violation of international humanitarian law and, as previously documented, amounts to the war crime of targeting civilians.”

But it also said that anti-government armed groups continue to shell “civilian-inhabited areas under government control indiscriminately,” stressing that indiscriminate attacks on civilian-inhabited areas are committed across Syria “by most, if not all, of the warring parties.”

“In no instance have the parties to the conflict shown any commitment to the paramount obligation under international law to distinguish between civilian and military objectives,” said Brazilian diplomat Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who chairs the panel.

Syria’s conflict, which began in March 2011, has killed more than 220,000 people, according to U.N. figures.

Separately, a report by a London-based research center, which was also released on Tuesday, painted a grim picture of the Syrian economy, saying it has shrunk by a whopping 50 percent over the past four years. Chatham House also said that the Syrian currency has depreciated by about 80 percent and that inflation averaged 51 percent in the first quarter of 2015.

Chatham House’s report, entitled “Syrian Economy, Picking up the Pieces,” said oil production has declined from a pre-war level of 387,000 barrels per day to about 10,000 in Syrian government-controlled areas, with close ally Iran supplying crude to refineries.

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