The G-20 summit meeting of world leaders is being held this weekend in Turkey, whose turn it is to host. Turkey’s capital is Ankara and its greatest city is Istanbul, but the host country has decided (as others have in the past) that leaders should meet in a congenial and relaxed location. So they picked a place that’s only about 500 kilometers from the bloodiest war now under way anywhere in the world.
The leaders will be meeting in the Regnum Carya Hotel Convention Centre in Antalya on Turkey’s southern coast, a beautiful Mediterranean “Riviera” resort city with lots of Roman and Byzantine history. But due east as the crow flies (or a Sukhoi 34 strike fighter) is northern Syria where the havoc and destruction of the Syrian civil war has been the worst. Leaders will probably spend a moment or two discussing the “tragic situation in Syria” and issue a statement calling on “the parties” to resolve their differences — but Vladimir Putin will make sure the matter goes no further.
Meanwhile, the picture painted in a recent Amnesty International report will only darken:
Civilians in opposition-controlled areas of Aleppo have been bombarded in their homes, hospitals, schools, public markets and places of worship in air attacks launched by government forces. The majority of attacks in this campaign have involved the use of “barrel bombs” – large, improvised explosive devices, which are delivered from helicopters and consist of oil barrels, fuel tanks or gas cylinders that have been packed with explosives, fuel and metal fragments to increase their lethal effect.
From January 2014 to March 2015, government forces launched continual attacks using barrel bombs and other imprecise explosive weapons on areas populated with civilians, including at least 14 public markets, 12 transportation hubs and 23 mosques, and on civilian objects, including at least 17 hospitals and medical centres and three schools. The vast majority of fatalities caused by barrel bomb attacks in Aleppo have been civilians. According to the Violations Documentation Center, a Syria-based monitoring group, barrel bomb attacks killed at least 3,124 civilians – and 35 fighters – in Aleppo governorate from January 2014 to March 2015.
Meanwhile, the Syrian government has failed to acknowledge that its aerial bombardment campaign in Aleppo has resulted in a single civilian casualty and has insisted that air attacks have targeted only “terrorists”. These and other factors examined in this report suggest that the aerial bombardment campaign conducted by government forces in Aleppo city deliberately targeted civilians and civilian objects. It is a war crime to intentionally make civilian objects and civilians who are not directly participating in hostilities the target of attacks. Such a systematic attack on the civilian population, when carried out as part of government policy as appears to have been the case in Aleppo, would also constitute a crime against humanity.
All this, of course, before those Su-34s showed up to help out the Syrian government.
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