Both Syrian rebels and their enemies, the Assad regime along with its Russian allies, are guilty of committing war crimes in Aleppo, Syria, the U.N. said Wednesday.
The U.N. Commission of Inquiry (UNCI) released an assessment of developments in the five-year war that occured between July and December of last year.
Among the commission's findings is that Russian and Syrian warplanes dropped unguided munitions, known as “dumb bombs,” and that the Syrian government intentionally carried out airstrikes on a humanitarian convoy in the rural outskirts of western Aleppo last September. That attack killed 14 aid workers.
"By using air-delivered munitions with the knowledge that humanitarian workers were operating in the location, Syrian forces committed the war crimes of deliberately attacking humanitarian relief personnel, denial of humanitarian aid, and attacking civilians," the report said.
The report looked at violations committed last year between July 21, when the rebel-held part of Aleppo was besieged, and Dec. 22, when Syrian troops and allied forces assumed full control of the city.
In perhaps the most damning discovery the commission said that evacuations were a military tactic -- not a humanitarian effort.
“The evacuation of eastern Aleppo city, amounting to forced displacement, leaves thousands of civilians in a perilous situation,” UNCI officials said in the report’s introduction. “While many civilians were permitted to move to western Aleppo, others were transported to [the city of] Idlib, where they lack adequate living conditions and fear future attacks as warring parties continue to fight for control of territory.”
The report concludes that the six-month siege of the city, “was a stage of unrelenting violence.”
It notes that civilians from both sides were left trapped in the eastern part of Aleppo without adequate food or medical supplies as Syrian and Russian forces conducted daily air strikes that killed hundreds and decimated hospitals, schools and markets. The situation was so severe that as civilians tried to flee they were violently forced to stay by armed groups and used as human shields. In the western part of the city, rebel groups would often fire indiscriminately killing and injuring dozens — including women and children.
“By early September, pro-Government [forces] had renewed and secured the siege. Faced with a protracted humanitarian catastrophe, confined armed groups began a concerted campaign of shelling western Aleppo neighborhoods over the next three months,” reads a passage from the report.
“Attacks were predominantly characterized by indiscriminate, indirect artillery fire into dense urban terrain, often with no apparent legitimate military objective, the effect of which terrorized the inhabitants of western Aleppo city.”
The commission drew on the testimony of 291 eyewitnesses, satellite imagery and an array of materials, including medical reports, forensic evidence and information provided by U.N. member states.
"For months, the Syrian and Russian air forces relentlessly bombarded eastern Aleppo city as part of a strategy to force surrender," said the commission's chairman, Paulo Pinheiro. "The deliberate targeting of civilians has resulted in the immense loss of human life, including hundreds of children."
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.