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Syrian government air raid may amount to war crime

A Syrian government raid on an Islamic State threshold that resulted in over 100 civilian casualties last year could amount to a war crime, human rights organization Amnesty International said in a report on Tuesday.

The report comes as Syrian activists and Western-backed opposition members accuse the government of carrying out a chlorine gas attack that killed 6 people and left dozens struggling to breath on Monday. A Syrian military official denied any involvement in the attack and blamed it on rebel groups.

This week also marks the start of the fifth year of the Syrian Civil War, which has no end in sight. The gruesome conflict has killed 220,000 people and displaced half the country’s population, according to the United Nations Refugee agency.

According to the Amnesty International Report, for two weeks between November 11 and 29, the Syrian government carried out a series of air raids on the city of al-Raqqa, an Islamic State nerve center in the region. The raids attacked a mosque and a marketplace, killing 115 civilians, including 14 children.

“Syrian government forces have shown flagrant disregard for the rules of war in these ruthless airstrikes,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director.

The organization said the severity and indiscriminate nature of 15 air strikes carried out by the Syrian government could constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian war.

“[T]here can be no justification for its forces attacking al-Raqqa as if the whole city were an IS base, unlawfully killing civilians in their dozens, injuring many more and causing extensive damage to civilian objects,” the report stated.

The organization also condemned the Syrian government’s silence on the civilian casualties following the raids and called on the government to halt all attacks on civilians. It urged the United Nations Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court and impose punitive measures on the Syrian government.

Because of security concerns, Amnesty International compiled the report through remote interviews with residents, activists and witnesses in Syria.