GENEVA - An independent commission on Syria has accused all parties in the coutry's conflict of cold-bloodedly pursuing military objectives regardless of the cost in civilian lives and human suffering.
Investigators of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria say the battle raging in the northern city of Idlib, the last rebel-held stronghold in Syria, is being waged by all sides with total disregard for the safety of its 3 million civilian inhabitants.
Presenting their latest report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, they say members of the terrorist group, Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, have launched indiscriminate rocket attacks against military positions of pro-government and Syrian government forces, killing and maiming dozens of civilians.
They say the response by Syria and its Russian ally has been disproportionate. Commission chairman Paulo Pinheiro says hundreds of civilians have been killed during the last four months in escalating aerial and ground offensives aimed at ousting the terrorists and affiliated armed groups from Idlib.
"This destroyed infrastructure essential to the survival of the civilian population, including markets, educational facilities, agricultural resources and, most notably, hospitals. As a consequence of the escalation in Idlib, half a million civilians have been left with no choice but to flee," he said.
Pinheiro says this has severely strained already overstretched humanitarian assistance. He says many of the displaced are forced to sleep in the open, without food, water or medical care.
The report provides a snapshot of the suffering endured by the civilian population throughout the country after more than eight years of civil war. It describes the dire condition of thousands of Syrian refugees trapped in Rukban camp, a U.S.-protected desert zone near the Jordanian border.
The investigators say the situation of some 11,000 family members of foreign Islamic State militants in the Al Hol camp is particularly desperate. They say children as young as 12 are suspected of being terrorists and are being detained in hidden places. They say thousands of other children have little access to food and medical care and some have died.
They say the lack of a political process or any progress toward peace is exacerbating civilian suffering.
The Syrian ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva accuses the Commission of distorting the truth and applying double standards. He says the report ignores the real reasons for human suffering in Syria. He cites terrorism, unilateral coercive measures and foreign occupation.
He claims the report seeks to justify the American, Turkish or Israeli positions and vindicates the offensives carried out by those countries against Syrian territory.