Kerry says Russia, Syria ‘terrorizing’ civilians; Moscow says U.S. guilty of war crimes

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 (UPI) — Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday he believes the governments in Syria and Russia ought to be subjected to war crimes investigations for their indiscriminate bombings of civilian targets.

Kerry dismissed any notion that the strikes against the civilian population in Syria have been accidental, British newspaper The Guardian reported.

“They are beyond the accidental now,” he said. “Way beyond, years beyond the accidental.”

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Kerry was perhaps the chief negotiator in reaching an agreement early last month that led to a cessation of hostilities Syria. He said at the time that the pact could prove to be a significant “turning point” in the Syrian peace process. But the cease-fire fell through less than a week later.

Since then, Moscow and Damascus have resumed attacks on rebel forces. In some instances, though, civilians have been killed.

Just days after the cease-fire went into effect, a military airstrike killed several members of a humanitarian aid convoy delivering supplies near the hotly contested northern city of Aleppo. Witnesses and some U.S. officials believe President Bashar al-Assad‘s regime was behind the attack.

The assault on the convoy, along with other reported accord violations, ultimately sunk the cease-fire. No talks have been held since.

Kerry made his remarks Friday before meeting with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault about a resolution to reestablish the cease-fire, deliver more aid and stop aerial bombings. The resolution, crafted by French and Spanish diplomats, was submitted to the U.N. Security Council.

The chief U.N. envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said if the Syria-Russia bombings continue at their current pace, eastern Aleppo — home to 275,000 people — could be completely destroyed by December.

“[Thursday] night, the [Assad] regime attacked yet another hospital and 20 people were killed and 100 people were injured,” Kerry said. “Russia and the [Syrian] regime owe the world more than an explanation about why they keep hitting hospitals and medical facilities and women and children.

“These are actions that beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes and those responsible would and should be held accountable for these actions … This is a targeted strategy to terrorize civilians and to kill anybody and everybody who is in the way of their military objectives.”

There was no immediate public confirmation Friday whether a Syrian hospital had been attacked, as Kerry claimed.

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Russia’s foreign ministry flatly rejected Kerry’s claims that Russia has been targeting civilians.

“Kerry’s statement, this is propaganda. There are some very serious legal consequences behind this terminology, and I think that Kerry used all of these terms to inflame the situation,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Friday.

“If it comes to war crimes, U.S. representatives should start with Iraq. And then move to Libya, and of course to Yemen — find out what’s there. I want to say that juggling these words is very dangerous, because there are indeed war crimes on the part of the American representatives,” Zakharova added.

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