GENEVA – A United Nations-affiliated commission said on Tuesday it was investigating multiple reports of alleged recent uses of chemical weapons in two regions of Syria and condemned an escalation of violence in the conflict-ridden nation.
In a statement, Paulo Pinheiro, who chairs the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, said his team were investigating recent allegations that weaponized chlorine gas was used during attacks on Saraqeb, which is located in the northern rebel-held Idlib province, and in Douma, a besieged suburb in Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of the capital Damascus.
“These reports are extremely troubling, and make a mockery of the so-called ‘de-escalation zones’ intended to protect civilians from such bombardment,” Pinheiro said, referring to the allocated zones of reduced violence in Syria drawn up by the international community, namely Russia, Turkey and Iran, who all play active roles in the conflict.
“The parties to this conflict are failing in their obligations under international humanitarian law, including their absolute obligation to refrain from attacks against medical facilities and personnel,” the Brazilian legal scholar added.
Pinheiro said that continued pro-regime sieges Eastern Ghouta was not only a humanitarian crisis but involved crimes and a deliberate attempt to starve the region’s populace.
“It is time for all warring parties to make the lives of civilians their paramount concern. This requires unimpeded humanitarian access to the civilian population and an end to indiscriminate bombardment,” Pinheiro added.
Some 400,000 people were currently trapped in besieged rebel-held areas of Syria with little to no access to humanitarian aid, food and medicines, the statement added.
Both Idlib and Eastern Ghouta have recently witnessed an upsurge in violence with Syrian and allied Russian air force planes increasing the frequency of airstrikes.