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Apply law to war crimes: Kuwait – Syria hits south

GENEVA, June 26, (Agencies): The State of Kuwait called on Tuesday to apply international laws in dealing with war crimes witnessed in Syria. This came during a speech delivered by Kuwait’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Jamal Al-Ghunaim, at the 38th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to discuss independent Fact-Finding Commission in Syria.

Ambassador Al-Ghunaim said that these demands came within the framework of Kuwait’s commitments to international human rights mechanism, which punish the various criminal war acts such as obstructing access to humanitarian aids, disrupting medical evacuation, and preventing the siege of residential areas.

The State of Kuwait is concerned about the statement by the Chairman of the Commission, Judge Paolo Pinheiro, that all parties to the conflict continue to use all kinds of heavy and internationally prohibited weapons against innocent civilians in Syria, Al-Ghunaim added. He stressed that these violations require a serious international action to stop the high rate of war crimes against the Syrian people.

Kuwait strongly condemns the serious and repeated violations of human rights facing Syrian people, attacks on medical facilities and infrastructure, and indiscriminate use of heavy weapons and aerial bombardments targeting civilians. He explained Kuwait’s efforts through its membership in the United Nations Security Council and in cooperation with the friendly Kingdom of Sweden to find a mechanism to improve the humanitarian situation in Syria through the adoption of Resolution (2401) by consensus on Feb 24.

Ambassador Al-Ghunaim expressed Kuwait’s “disappointment” of not fully implementing the resolution, reiterating its call for the access of humanitarian agencies to all areas of Syria. He explained that the State of Kuwait was always aware of the human tragedy in Syria and believed in the importance of supporting the brotherly Syrian people and hosted three international donor conferences in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and cochaired donor conferences in London and Brussels.

The total amount provided by Kuwait during these conferences amounted to $1.6 billion, distributed through regional and international organizations. Kuwait allocated a sum of $250 million to support the educational and health sectors and infrastructure of countries hosting Syrian refugees, especially in Lebanon and Jordan.

It appeals to all countries that have pledged their commitments in the six conferences held to support the Syrian people to fulfil their commitments. Ambassador Al-Ghunaim referred to the call made by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al- Sabah to support and assist the children and youth of the displaced and Syrian refugees through the adoption of programs providing them with learning opportunities.

He stressed that Kuwait is against any military solution to solve the Syrian crisis and calls for stopping all forms of violence and fighting and, instead, reaching a peaceful settlement under the UN supervision and according to UNSC Resolution (2254). Al-Ghunaim concluded his speech by urging the support of UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura in his efforts to push forward negotiations on the political track to resolve the Syrian crisis.

Offensive Syrian troops widened a major offensive against rebels in the southwest on Tuesday and Jordan said it would not open its border to tens of thousands of civilians fl eeing the attack. At least 45,000 people have fl ed the upsurge in fighting in Syria’s southwestern Deraa province, heading towards the border with Jordan, the United Nations said.

President Bashar al-Assad is aiming to restore control over a strategically vital part of Syria at the borders with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, building on his military’s momentum elsewhere in the seven-year conflict.

Government forces opened a new front on Tuesday against the rebelheld part of Deraa city, the provincial capital, state media reported. A commander in the regional alliance that backs Assad told Reuters the aim was to reach the Nassib crossing with Jordan, an economic artery in rebel hands since 2015. Assad is pressing the offensive with Russian support despite warnings from the United States which has been seeking to uphold a “de-escalation” deal it brokered with Moscow in the southwest last year.

Washington had warned Assad of serious repercussions. But there has been no sign of action to stop him: Washington has told Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels they should not expect military support against the offensive, according to a message sent to rebel commanders seen by Reuters. The war has pivoted towards the southwest since Assad, backed by Russian and Iranian military power, crushed the last insurgent pockets near the cities of Damascus and Homs.

Assad, whose control was reduced to a fraction of Syria in 2015, now commands the single biggest chunk of the country, though nearly all the northern border with Turkey and much of the east remains outside his control. In the first big advance in the southwest, government forces seized a swathe of rebel-held territory including the town of Busra al-Harir in northeastern Deraa province, media controlled by Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Tuesday.

There was no statement from rebel groups about the reported government advances. State media said government warplanes and artillery were also targeting the rebel-held sector of Deraa city at the Jordanian border, aiming to cut the supply road to Jordan. Air strikes hit the rebel-held town of Nawa for the first time in nearly a year, the Observatory said. The offensive has so far focused on Deraa province, not rebel-held parts of neighbouring Quneitra province at the Golan frontier that are more sensitive to Israel.

Israel is determined to keep Iranian and Iran-backed forces that support Assad away from its border, and wants them removed more widely from Syria. Two Israeli missiles hit near Damascus airport overnight, state news agency SANA and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said. An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment on the reports.

SANA said the missile strikes near Damascus international airport were a sign of support by Israel for the rebels in the southwest. Iran is a leading ally of Assad and backs several militias, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, fighting in support of him. The attack has fuelled concern of a new wave of displacement in a confl ict that has already uprooted 11 million people, forcing millions abroad as refugees. Jens Laerke, spokesman of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that civilians including children had been killed and injured and a hospital had been put out of operation by an air strike.

The number of displaced so far stood at 45,000, he said. “People don’t know where to go,” said Ahmad al-Dbis, safety and security manager at UOSSM, a medical charity that works in opposition parts of Syria. He said five of the aid group’s facilities in the south, including a mobile clinic and a healthcare centre, went out of service during the latest clashes. The UN’s World Food Programme has provided food to 30,000 people and plans to deliver more in the coming days over the border from Jordan, said spokeswoman Bettina Luescher.

“We expect the number of displaced people could more than double as violence escalates,” she added. Jordan will keep its borders shut and the United Nations can help displaced Syrians in their own country, Jordan’s foreign minister said. “The Jordanian contacts over southern Syria aim to stem bloodshed … and help the displaced inside Syria,” Ayman Safadi said on Twitter.

“We do all we can to help the brothers and we protect our interests and our security.” A rebel source said Jordanian authorities, citing safety, have warned factions there not to allow refugee fl ows next to the border, which has in effect been closed for years. Britain and the United States Tuesday led a passionate call to halt the use of chemical weapons by empowering the world’s watchdog to finger those behind attacks, triggering fierce opposition from Russia and Syria.

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