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Regime strikes on Syrian villages kill 17 children

Human rights groups say Syrian regime committed war crimes [AFP]

Date of publication: 14 May, 2015

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Regime airstrikes on three adjacent rebel-held villages in northern Syria killed at least 39 civilians, 17 of them children, a monitoring group said on Thursday.

Around 39 civilians were killed, including 17 children, in the Syrian city of Aleppo following government airstrikes, a monitoring group said Thursday, calling the attack a massacre.

Eight siblings were among the dead from the Wednesday strikes on three adjacent rebel-held villages in the southern Aleppo province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.

Dozens of civilians were also wounded in the raids, which involved both missile strikes and barrel bombing, and remain in "critical condition" with fears of the death toll increasing.

The British-based monitoring group also slammed the regime's media for "bragging" that the air force had killed dozens of "terrorists."

The Syrian government has been repeatedly condemned for its widespread use of barrel bombs, crude weapons made from oil drums, gas cylinders or water tanks, packed with explosives and scrap metal, and dropped from helicopters.

In the past four months, more than 11,000 airstrikes were carried out by the Syrian regime, SOHR reported, including 5,943 barrel bombs.

Chemical weapons

Chemical weapons experts have found traces of deadly nerve agents used to make chemical weapons at a site in Syria where the agents were not supposed to be, two diplomats said Wednesday.

The discovery of traces of sarin and VX renewed fears that Syria did not disclose all aspects of its chemical weapons programme when it joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013 and agreed to destroy its chemical arsenal.

A team of experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has repeatedly visited Syria to discuss what they describe as anomalies in the declaration by Damascus of its chemical arsenal.

Several members of the UN Security Council fear Syria didn't declare everything it has.

A UN diplomat said Wednesday that experts told the OPCW's executive council at a meeting last week that they found the traces at a site the Syrians had declared, but they said Damascus hadn't declared that sarin and VX were produced there.

The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because the OPCW meeting was closed.

Latvia's representative, Maris Klisans, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that serious questions remain over the accuracy of Syria's declaration, which was supposed to list all its chemical weapons and production and storage facilities.

"The list of discrepancies remains long," Klisans said. "These are not trivial bookkeeping issues."

He listed a string of examples and ended by saying, "last but not least, the recent finding of the DAT (Declaration Assessment Team), showing traces of precursors of VX and sarin were found on a site where they were not supposed to be."

The UN diplomat said the assessment team is expected to follow up on the finding.

Syrian activists and doctors say another chemical agent, chlorine, has been used repeatedly in Syria in recent months, killing and injuring civilians.

The US and other countries have blamed the Syrian government for repeatedly dropping chlorine from helicopters during the four-year civil war, as no other party to the conflict has helicopters. Forces loyal to Assad have blamed rebels for such attacks.

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