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UN warns of war crimes over Aleppo carnage

The United States and Russia agreed to extend a truce to end nearly two weeks of near-constant attacks in the northern city

Published: Updated:

Two top UN officials told the Security Council Wednesday that those responsible for hospital attacks and starvation sieges in Syria’s frontline city of Aleppo should face trial for war crimes.

The 15-member council met to discuss the crisis in Aleppo just as the United States and Russia agreed to extend a truce to end nearly two weeks of near-constant attacks in the northern city.

“Let me be absolutely clear once again: intentional and direct attacks on hospitals are war crimes,” said the UN’s top political affairs official, Jeffrey Feltman.

“Using starvation as a weapon during conflict is a war crime.”

Feltman said that Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes prosecutions.

“Those responsible for war crimes must be held to account,” he said.

A bid by the council in 2014 to refer Syria to the ICC was blocked by China and Syrian ally Russia, and it appeared unlikely that a new push for such action would garner enough support.

UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien said “life for people in Aleppo is horrendous” as he condemned the “inexcusable, deeply disturbing attacks” on medical facilities.

Those responsible for the attacks “must understand that these acts cannot and will not be forgotten,” said O’Brien.

“Those who are responsible must know that they will one day be held accountable,” he added.

Hospitals in both rebel and government-held areas of Aleppo have been hit, triggering global outrage and calls for an end to the fighting.

The fighting in Aleppo is threatening to derail international efforts to resume peace talks in Geneva this month and push ahead with a plan to end the five-year war.

Syria’s conflict erupted in 2011 after anti-government protests were put down. Fighting quickly escalated into a multi-faceted war that has killed more than 270,000 people and forced millions from their homes.