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Both Sides in 6-Year Syrian Conflict Committed War Crimes: UN Report

U.N. investigators said the U.S.-led coalition did not carry out any air attacks over Aleppo in the second half of 2016

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This still image taken from drone footage, posted online by the communications arm of Ahrar al-Sham militant group, purports to show a blast on the ground, apparently the result of an airstrike, in a Syrian-government controlled neighborhood of Aleppo, S, VOA
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UN, March 2, 2017: Opposing sides in the fight for control of Aleppo committed war crimes, according to a new United Nations report.

The U.N.’s latest report on the six-year conflict said the Syrian government’s aerial bombing and strafing of a humanitarian convoy that killed 14 aid workers and halted relief operations were among the war crimes that were committed.

Syrian and Russian forces executed indiscriminate “daily air strikes” using cluster munitions on the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo between July and the and the fall of the city in late December, the report said. Hundreds of people were killed and hospitals destroyed, amounting to the war crime of indiscriminate attacks.

Map, VOA

Was Russia involved?

U.N. investigators could not determine if both Syrian and Russian forces were involved in the Aleppo attacks because they jointly controlled their air space over the area “throughout the period under review.”

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“[They] use predominately the same aircraft and weapons, thus rendering attribution impossible in many cases,” according to the report, which did not attribute any war crimes to Russia.

The report, which was released Wednesday, said Syrian helicopters employed a banned weapon, toxic chlorine bombs, on Aleppo “throughout 2016,” causing hundreds of causalities.

More than 5,000 pro-government forces surrounded eastern Aleppo in an attempt to “surrender or starve” opposition forces, the report said.

This photo made from the footage taken from Russian Defense Ministry official website on Feb. 4, 2017, claims to show a Russian sapper looking for mines in a street in Aleppo, Syria. VOA

Civilian deaths

Opposition groups killed and injured dozens of people when they shelled government-controlled western Aleppo, the report said. The groups also stopped civilians from leaving eastern Aleppo and used them as “human shields,” and attacked a Kurdish residential district, both of which are war crimes.

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U.N. investigators said the U.S.-led coalition did not carry out any air attacks over Aleppo in the second half of 2016.

The report was issued as Syrian peace talks continue in Geneva. The findings are based on 291 interviews with victims and witnesses, as well as forensic evidence and satellite imagery. (VOA)

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As Climate Talks Come to a Halt, Africa Suffers From Global Warming

The World Health Organization warns that climate change will exacerbate the impact of some disease and health problems.

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Drought, Climate change, global warming
A farmer stands on cracked earth that three weeks earlier created the bottom of a reservoir on his farm, in Groot Marico, South Africa. VOA

Efforts to boost global action against climate change are stuttering, as several key nations have objected to a key United Nations-backed report on the impacts of rising temperatures at the COP24 talks in Poland.

Many developing nations say they are already suffering from the impact of climate change, especially in south Asia and Africa, where water shortages and intense storms are putting lives and livelihoods in danger.

In Malawi in southern Africa, a bustling fish market stood at Kachulu on the shores of Lake Chilwa just five months ago. Now, hundreds of fishing boats lie marooned across the vast bay as vultures circle over the cracked, sun-baked mud. Water levels here fluctuate annually, but scientists say climate change is making the seasonal dry-out of the lake far more dramatic. Fishermen are being forced to leave and look for work elsewhere, says Sosten Chiotha, of the non-governmental organization ‘LEAD’ – Leadership for Environment and Development.

“Climate change contributes to the current recessions that we are experiencing, because you can see that in 2012 there was a recession where the lake lost about 80 percent of its water. Then it recovered in 2013, but not fully. So since then every year we have been experiencing these recessions,” Chiotha said.

Scientists gathering at the COP24 climate talks say it is developing countries like Malawi that are being hit hardest by the impacts of climate change.

The charity Water Aid has released a report ranking the countries worst-hit by water shortages, with Sudan, Niger and Pakistan making up the top three.

“There are people who are living with the impact of climate change right now. And they’re feeling those impacts not through carbon, but through water. And as we’ve seen over the past few years and will continue to see for many years to come unfortunately, is a huge increase in water stress and absolute water scarcity,” Water Aid’s Jonathan Farr told VOA from the climate talks currently underway in the Polish city of Katowice.

Richer nations have pledged $100 billion a year for poorer nations to deal with the consequences of climate change. Water Aid says they are failing to deliver the money.

Scientists say emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be reduced by 45 percent by 2030 to have any hope of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius – the target agreed in the Paris climate deal.

 

 

Global Warming, Climate Change, Africa
Climate activists attend the March for Climate in a protest against global warming in Katowice, Poland, Dec. 8, 2018, as the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference takes place in the city. VOA

However, the number of coal-fired power stations – the most polluting for

m of energy generation – is growing. The German organization ‘Urgewald’ calculates that $478 billion had been invested into expansion of the coal industry between January 2016 and September 2018.

Also Read: To Help Poor Countries Adapt To Global Warming, World Bank Doubles Its Funding

Meanwhile the World Health Organization warns that climate change will exacerbate the impact of some disease and health problems, including malaria, malnutrition and heat exposure.

Also Read: To Help Poor Countries Adapt To Global Warming, World Bank Doubles Its Funding

There is little optimism at the talks that much concrete progress will be made, as several countries including the United States, Russia and Saudi Arabia have already voiced objections to a key scientific report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (VOA)