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The Battle for Syria

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Assad Forces, Rebels Increase Murders and Rapes of Civilians

March 12th 2013

Syria fighting injured baby

The violence and bloodshed in Syria have surpassed anything seen in the Middle East since the days of Saddam Hussein's Iraq, according to independent investigators in a report released on Monday. There are also reports of sexual violence, including at checkpoints or while being held by intelligence agencies.

The new report, which urges a political solution to what has become an increasingly militarized and sectarian conflict, described the conflict as reaching “new heights of destruction.” The report, released by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry, disturbed members of the United Nations Security Council, according to the commission's chairman, Paulo Pinheiro.

“If the national, regional, and international actors fail to find a solution to the conflict and stop the agony of millions of civilians, the alternative will be the political, economic and social destruction of Syria and its society, with devastating implications for the region and the world,” Mr. Pinheiro warned, speaking on behalf of the four-member commission.

The civil war displays all the signs of a "destructive stalemate” where neither the Syrian government nor the rebel forces have been able to achieve victory and are therefore increasing the severity of their violence “in the fallacious belief that victory is within reach,” according to the commission's report.

In the report presented by Mr. Pinheiro, the commission claimed that the main cause of civilian casualties, mass displacement and destruction “is the reckless manner in which parties to the conflict conduct hostilities,” including indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombardment.

“The parties must take all feasible precautions to protect civilians,” the commission urges, reiterating that the conflict is waged by both government forces and anti-government armed groups in violation of international humanitarian law.

The 10-page report, which is based on first-hand accounts from 191 interviews conducted last month, describes a "dramatic erosion of civilian space with mass displacement exacerbated by diminishing areas in which civilians can seek refuge," according to officials.

More than 75,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011 and about a million people have fled to neighboring countries. In addition, 2 million have been internally displaced and over 4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

The report notes in particular the use of medical care as a tactic of war: "Medical personnel and hospitals have been deliberately targeted and are treated by parties to the conflict as military objectives, the commission notes, adding that medical access has been denied in certain cases “on real or perceived political and sectarian grounds.”

In addition, the human rights investigations call attention to so-called “Popular Committees,” which comprise local residents who reportedly protect their neighborhoods against anti-government armed groups and criminal gangs.

“In a disturbing and dangerous trend, mass killings allegedly perpetrated by Popular Committees have at times taken on sectarian overtones,” the commission noted.

In addition, the report cites the use of child fighters, some recruited as young as 13 by anti-government forces for weapons training and operational roles; while there are instances of Syrian boys as young as 12 being pushed to support government troops.

However, the report fails to mention al-Qaeda terrorists and foreign fighters who are involved in the uprising against Assad and the Ba'ath Party.

"One of the major reasons for the horrible violence is the fact that Islamists from al-Qaeda and its affiliates are pouring into Syria in hopes of being a major part of a new government," warns former military intelligence officer and police counterterrorist Charles O'Malley.

"The recent takeover of Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists brings new hope to other Islamist terror groups who believe they can begin new caliphates in Syria, Lebanon, Libya and other Muslim nations," added O'Malley.

Jim Kouri, CPP, the fifth Vice President and Public Information Officer of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, has served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country.

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