The reported brutality in Syria's biggest city, Aleppo, where forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebels continue to face off in bloody clashes, may amount to crimes against humanity, the UN chief said on Friday.
“As we meet here, Aleppo ... is the epicenter of a vicious battle between the Syrian government and those who wish to replace it,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was quoted by Reuters as having told the 193-nation UN General Assembly.
“The acts of brutality that are being reported may constitute crimes against humanity or war crimes,” Ban said. “Such acts must be investigated and the perpetrators held to account.”
He reiterated his concern about the deadlock on the UN Security Council. Last month Russia and China joined forces in their third double veto to strike down a resolution that would have called for an end to the violence and threatened Damascus with sanctions.
“I have said many times how much I regret the divisions that have paralyzed action in the Security Council,” Ban said.
He repeated that he intended to replace UN-Arab League mediator Kofi Annan, who announced on Thursday his intention to step down at the end of August. Annan said the deadlock on the 15-nation council was among the factors that had undermined his peace efforts.
“Despite repeated verbal acceptances of the (Annan's) six-point (peace) plan endorsed by the UN Security Council, both the government and the opposition continue to rely on weapons, not diplomacy, in the belief that they will win through violence,” Ban said.
“But there are no winners in Aleppo today, nor anywhere else in the country,” he said. “The losers in this escalating battle are the people of Syria.”
Meanwhile on Friday, Syrian forces stormed the last rebel stronghold in the capital Damascus in tanks and armored vehicles and blasted artillery at rebels in Aleppo.
Rebels told Reuters that they had captured a large police station after days of clashes. Rebel commander Abu Zaher said fighters had taken several police officers prisoner and seized weapons and ammunition.
Other rebels said heavy fighting was taking place in Saleheddine, the main battleground district, where they estimated 20 civilians had been killed. They said 50 of their fighters have been killed there in the last several days.
In the capital, Reuters reported, Syrian troops entered Damascus's southern district of Tadamon. Activists said most of the district was under the control of government forces by early Friday evening. The army had been trying to enter Tadamon for more than a week but was pushed back by fierce resistance from the rebels.
An activist said the troops had executed several people after entering the district. The account could not be confirmed.
Elsewhere in the country, opposition activists told Reuters that Syrian forces had killed at least 50 people during clashes with rebels in the central city of Hama on Thursday, while a helicopter bombardment killed 16 rebels near the southern town of Deraa.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)