By Arab News
The United States on Friday demanded a war crimes investigation into the ferocious bombing campaign of Aleppo, accusing Syria and its Russian ally of “terrorizing” civilians in the devastated city.
US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke ahead of discussions on a draft UN Security Council resolution that would call for an end to the Russian-backed onslaught on Aleppo.
The two-week assault by President Bashar Assad’s forces has sparked a global outcry after airstrikes on hospitals and other civilian infrastructure.
“These are acts that beg for an appropriate investigation — war crimes. And those that commit these will be and should be held accountable for their actions,” Kerry told reporters in Washington.
He said Moscow and Damascus “owe the world more than an explanation about why they keep hitting hospitals and medical facilities, children and women.
“This is a targeted strategy to terrorize civilians and to kill anybody and everybody who is in the way of their military objectives.”
Raids earlier this week destroyed the largest hospital in the rebel-controlled east, and Kerry said on Friday another strike on a medical facility overnight killed 20 people.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Russia to use its influence with the Syrian government to end the bombardment of Aleppo, as her government opened the door to possible sanctions against Russia for its role in the conflict.
Merkel said there was no basis in international law for bombing hospitals and Moscow should use its influence with Assad to end the bombing of civilians. “Russia has a lot of influence on Assad. We must end these atrocious crimes,” Merkel told an audience of party members in Germany.
In New York, the UN Security Council began an emergency meeting on the war at Russia’s request.
“The top priority is to stop the bloodbath in Aleppo,” French Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters as he headed into closed-door talks.
Security Council members have discussed for a week a French-drafted UN resolution calling for a cease-fire.
Russia threatened to use its veto to block the French-drafted UN resolution.
“I cannot possibly see how we can let this resolution pass,” Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters when asked whether he would resort to the veto.
Following a closed-door Security Council meeting on Syria, Churkin said the French measure was “hastily put together,” adding, “I believe this is not designed to make progress, but to cause a Russian veto.”
French Ambassador Francois Delattre said the resolution has “very strong support” within the 15-member council and that “there was no time to waste” for addressing the unfolding disaster in Aleppo.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault in Washington warned that an expected Saturday vote on the proposed Aleppo truce was “a moment of truth for all members of the Security Council.”
Friday’s talks come after UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura warned Aleppo could be totally destroyed before the end of the year.
De Mistura also called on the regime and Russia to halt strikes if fighters from the former Al-Nusra Front, now known as Fateh Al-Sham Front, left the city, even offering to escort them out himself.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday he could support a UN plan for the faction to leave Aleppo if other rebel groups renounced their ties to the group.
“If Nusra leaves with its arms in the direction of Idlib… then for the sake of saving Aleppo we are ready to support such an approach and would be ready to call on the Syrian government to agree to this,” Lavrov told Russian television.
Russia’s parliament on Friday ratified a deal with Syria on the “indefinite” deployment of its forces in the country.
Once Syria’s economic powerhouse, Aleppo has been ravaged by the war that has killed more than 300,000 since it began in March 2011.
At least 250,000 people remain in east Aleppo, under near-continuous siege for months and now facing some of the most intense bombardment yet.