Human Rights Watch calls on Syrian rebels to stop killing Kurdish civilians in Aleppo

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Locals searching for victims under ruins after Syrian Islamist rebels bombed the Kurdish neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsoud in Aleppo. File photo

ARA News 

ERBIL – Syrian rebel groups launched indiscriminate attacks on a Kurdish neighborhood in Aleppo that killed at least 18 civilians, including seven children, five women and injured 68, Kurdish officials told Human Rights Watch.

“A decrease in casualty numbers brought a much needed respite for Syrians, but many civilians are still dying in unlawful attacks,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director for Human Rights Watch, blaming both the Syrian government and Syrian rebels for killing civilians. 

“Key countries pushing for negotiations in Syria – notably the U.S. and Russia – need to press the warring parties in Syria to end unlawful attacks.”

“In Aleppo, opposition armed groups fired locally made rockets, grad, and mortars,” Emad Dawud, a local council member in the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood, told Human Rights Watch. Local activists said that the armed groups began their attacks following clashes with the Kurdish forces of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) over the control of a key thoroughfare.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the armed groups also struck the neighborhood with 23 rockets on March 6, killing nine civilians including four children.

On March 19, four civilians, including two children, died when rockets were fired into Sheikh Maqsoud from the al-Halk neighborhood, which armed groups control.

Human Rights Watch said it reviewed a video posted on March 7 showing rebels from the Thuwar al-Sham brigade preparing locally made cylindrical rockets in preparation for a launch into Sheikh Maqsoud.

A local journalist in Sheikh Maqsoud, Pervin Roj, said on April 8 that the heavy shelling that began on April 5 had not stopped. She said that the hospital was overrun with dead and injured.

“There are still people under the rubble that the rescue teams cannot reach,” Roj said.

Video of the aftermath of the April 5 attacks showed victims being treated for difficulty in breathing. Photos of the aftermath showed children buried under destroyed buildings and others bloodied and covered with blankets after being lifted from the rubble.

Both the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) and Jaysh al-Islam confirmed that civilians were targeted in attacks.

On April 7, the official spokesperson for Jaysh al-Islam, Islam Alloush, issued a statement saying that “during confrontations [with the Kurdish fighters], a local commander in Jaysh al-Islam used weapons that are not authorized to be used in these types of confrontations, which is considered a violation of the group’s internal rules, and he was referred to the military judicial system of the army [Jaysh al-Islam].”

Speaking to ARA News in an exclusive interview, Alloush confirmed that Jaysh al-Islam was part of the rebel coalition that fights against the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Sheikh Maqsoud.

“The Kurds are trying to control Sheikh Maqsoud to facilitate their control of the Castello road, which is the only supply line for civilians in the liberated areas in Aleppo, and the Kurds want to cut off this route, to besiege the city, and to implement the schemes of the regime,” he told ARA News.

However, Kurds disagree and suggest the YPG are trying to protect civilians from the Syrian rebel groups. 

“I think the People’s Protection Units (YPG) protect people from the opposition factions’ attacks launched from three points, including Al Castelo,” Nidal Hassan, a Kurdish activist from Efrin, told ARA News. “The Kurdish units are responding to the attacks by rebels who use Castillo supply line as a pretext to bomb the neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsoud,” he added. 

“Today and yesterday was calm compared to the previous days, but shelling and attacks continue. People are now concerned about the spread of diseases (tuberculosis, smallpox) due to the lack of medicines and malnutrition because of the blockade,” he said. 

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg 

Source: ARA News 

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