US Secretary of State John Kerry called for a war crimes investigation into Russia and Syria over their bombardment of hospitals, civilian infrastructure and aid workers’ headquarters in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo.
Russian and Syrian government actions in Aleppo “beg for a war crimes investigation,” Kerry said on Friday, after meeting with French Prime Minister Laurent Fabius.
The pair “owe the world more than an explanation” for their attacks on hospitals in Aleppo, he added, noting that the attacks are “way beyond” accidental at this point.
He also accused the Russians and the regime of Bashar al-Assad of employing a “targeted strategy … to terrorize civilians.”
Kerry’s statement comes after a week of diplomatic jabs between the US and Russia. On Monday, the US decided to suspend ties with Moscow over Russia’s role in the Syrian government’s scorched-earth offensive on Aleppo.
The offnesive has killed hundreds of civilians and opposition fighters in the city’s rebel-held east over the past two weeks, spawning an “increased mood in support of kinetic actions against the regime,” a senior administration official told the Washington Post earlier this week.
In response, Russia suspended a nuclear and energy-related research pact with the US and deployed surface-to-air missiles to its naval base in Tartus, on Syria’s western coast.
Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a Russian Defence Ministry spokesman, said in a statement
released on Thursday suggesting that the Russians would fire on any aircraft taking offensive action near Russian troops even before identifying them, leaving open the possibility that Russia would attack US aircraft.
“Any missile or airstrikes on the territory controlled by the Syrian government will create a clear threat to Russian servicemen,” the statement read. “Russian air defence system crews are unlikely to have time to determine in a ‘straight line’ the exact flight paths of missiles and then who the warheads belong to.”
Russian lawmakers also approved a measure
on Friday that would allow Russian troops to remain stationed in Syria indefinately.
Russia accused the US of “blatant aggression” after US warplanes targeted a Syrian army base on Al-Tharda mountain on September 17, killing as many as 80 Syrian troops. The Obama administration said the airstrike was meant to target the Islamic State.
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