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Russians bombed market

U.N. war crimes investigators said Tuesday that a Russian plane was apparently behind an airstrike in November on a Syrian market that killed 84 people, an attack which could amount to a war crime.

The findings, reported by the U.N.'s Commission of Inquiry on Syria, were the first time the group has pinned responsibility for civilian deaths in Syria directly on Russia.

In the same report, the Commission of Inquiry said the U.S.-led coalition in the war against the Islamic State group failed to properly vet the target of a March 20, 2017 air raid that killed 150 civilians sheltering in a school in northern Syria.

"The international coalition should have known the nature of the target," the report said, adding that the oversight had put the coalition in violation of humanitarian law. The coalition took responsibility for the strike, saying it had targeted 30 IS fighters it believed were hiding in the building.

"All parties share guilt for completely disregarding the rules of war," said the commission's chairman, Paulo Pinheiro, at a press conference introducing the report. He said parties were resorting to "increasingly cynical methods" to secure objectives in Syria's complex civil war.

The report documented widespread abuses of international law, including leveraging aid in combination with siege warfare to force civilians "to surrender or starve." It said pro-government forces had bombed hospitals and clinics in opposition-held territory in northwest Syria.

According to the report, "all available information" indicates that a Russian plane carried out the Nov. 13 airstrike that hit a market near houses and a police station run by Western-backed Syrian rebels in the town of Atarib, in the northern Idlib province.

At least 84 people were killed and some 150 were wounded in the attack.

The commission, which was created 6 1/2 years ago to document alleged human rights violations by any side in Syria's war, says the plane that carried out the airstrike took off from the Hemeimeem air base in Syria, which is run by Russian forces.

Russia is a main backer of President Bashar Assad's forces and has helped turn the tide of war in his favour with a campaign of airstrikes.

The Russian military denies accusations of killing civilians. It says its forces in Syria have only launched strikes on militant targets after verifying their location, and have never hit areas populated by civilians.



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