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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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Australia Rejects U.N. Climate Report, Continues Using Coal

Australia is the world's driest inhabited continent.

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Australia, Coal
The Liddell coal-fired power station is seen in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, Australia. VOA

Australia is rejecting the latest U.N. report on climate change, insisting coal remains critical to energy security and lowering household power bills.

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its report released Monday that global greenhouse gas emissions must reach zero by the middle of the century to stop global warming exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The authors warned that if warming was allowed to reach two degrees, the world would be on course toward uncontrollable temperatures.

Climate change, Australia
The coal-fired Plant Scherer, one of the nation’s top carbon dioxide emitters, stands in the distance in Juliette, Georgia. VOA

They made special mention of coal, insisting that its use for power generation would have to fall to between zero and two percent of current usage.

The report has received a lukewarm response by Australia’s center-right government. It has said it has no intention of scaling back fossil fuel production because without coal, household power bills would soar.

Canberra also insists it is on target to meet its commitments under the Paris agreement, which attempts to unite every nation under a single accord to tackle climate change for the first time ever.

Australia earns billions of dollars exporting coal to China and other parts of Asia, while it generates more than 60 percent of domestic electricity.

Queensland, Australia
FILE – A dead tree stands near a water tank in a drought-stricken paddock located on the outskirts of the southwestern Queensland town of Cunnamulla in outback Australia, Aug. 10, 2017. (VOA)

Australia’s Environment Minister Melissa Price believes the IPCC report exaggerates the threat posed by fossil fuel.

“Coal does form a very important part of the Australian energy mixer and we make no apology for the fact that our focus at the moment is on getting electricity prices down,” Price said. “Every year, there is new technology with respect to coal and what its contribution is to emissions. So, you know, to say that it has got to be phased out by 2050 is drawing a very long bow.”

Australia has some of the world’s highest per capita rates of greenhouse gas pollution. A recent government report showed a failure to reduce levels of greenhouse gas pollution. The survey said that between January and March this year, Australia had its most elevated levels of carbon pollution since 2011.

Coal, Australia
Workers operate machines at a coal mine at Palaran district in Samarinda, Indonesia (VOA)

Conservationists argue Australia is doing too little to protect itself from the predicted ravages of a shifting climate.

Also Read: Use Every Resources To Help in Climate Change: Scientists

Australia is the world’s driest inhabited continent. Scientists warn that droughts, floods, heat waves, brush fires and storms will become more intense as temperatures rise, with potentially disastrous consequences for human health and the environment, including the Great Barrier Reef. (VOA)