Assad has committed war crimes in Syria: US
Washington, Feb 23: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has committed "war crimes" with Russian support against his own people, the US said today, as it put the Assad regime as well as Russia "on notice" following massive civilian casualties in rebel strongholds of the strife-torn country.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said the US is monitoring the situation in Syria, where more than 400 civilians were killed in the last five days in the regime-led air strikes and bombardments in rebel controlled areas.
“Bashar al-Assad has already committed war crimes. He has already gassed his own people with sarin, he has already committed unthinkable acts,” Shah told reporters at a news conference, when asked if President Donald Trump believes that Assad is committing "war crimes".
Assad has been committing war crimes with support of the Russians, he claimed. “We don't want that to continue,” he said, adding the US is monitoring the situation.
“(We) don't want to get ahead of anything that may or may not be announced on that front. But you know the Assad regime and Russia's actions on this front are on notice,” he said when asked what more can Trump do to stop the killings.
State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert told a separate news conference that more than 400 civilians were "horrifically" killed by the Syrian regime.
“As we all know, they are backed by not only Russia but also Iran. It is a good reminder that Russia bears a unique responsibility for what is taking place there. Without Russia backing Syria, the devastation and the deaths would certainly not be occurring,” she said.
During a UN Security Council meeting on Syria in New York, the US urged the 15-member body to move forward with this ceasefire and humanitarian resolution immediately. It expressed concern over the situation in Eastern Ghouta, where fresh bombardments by Syrian government yesterday killed dozens.
“The pictures and videos are everywhere. Screaming parents digging through rubble to find their children. Doctors working frantically with no medicine and no equipment in underground hospitals to save whoever they can," said Kelley Currie, US Representative for Economic and Social Affairs.
"These are not terrorists showing up in these makeshift emergency rooms. These are civilians. They are ordinary people under attack by a barbaric Assad regime that is bent on leaving eastern Ghouta levelled to the ground, with no regard for the 400,000 men, women, and children who live there,” she added.
No one needs to use their imagination to know what the Assad regime is planning, she said.
“It is exactly what we saw in Aleppo in 2016 and in Hama and Homs before that. The Assad regime wants to bomb or starve all of their opponents into submission. That is why, except for two small deliveries of aid, the regime has not allowed any medical convoys or deliveries of food into eastern Ghouta since November. And the bombing attacks have been relentless,” Currie said.
She alleged that the regime wants "to keep bombing and gassing" these 400,000 people and is counting on Russia to make sure the Security Council is unable to stop their suffering.
Meanwhile, a top UN official said his office has received thousands of messages from civilians under bombardment in eastern Ghouta, as he stressed for stopping hostilities in the region.
"United Nations agencies had described a picture of hell on Earth. There must now be a sustained cessation of hostilities enabling immediate, safe, unimpeded and sustained deliveries of humanitarian aid, evacuation of the critically sick and wounded and an alleviation of the suffering of the Syrian people," said Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator.