Russia, Turkey May Have Committed War Crimes in Syria
United Nations investigators believe that Russian and Turkish-allied forces have likely committed war crimes in Syria, as tensions continue to mount over a battle in Idlib Province that has killed hundreds of civilians and forcibly displaced nearly one million others. The UN team claimed that Russian fighter jets had over the past year indiscriminately targeted civilians in air strikes on such places as markets and hospitals, whereas Turkish-backed rebel groups had perpetrated arbitrary killings in Kurdish-majority areas of Syria. In 2015, Russia intervened militarily on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his fight against rebels and has since provided him with diplomatic cover while becoming the major power broker in the war-torn country. Russian air power has perhaps been the mitigating factor permitting pro-regime forces to take retake most rebel-held territories. For its part, Ankara in October launched an incursion into northern Syria in order to extricate from the area US-supported Kurdish units that Turkey deems an extension of the banned PKK, an organization of Turkish Kurds engaged in a decades-long insurgency geared toward achieving autonomy. The UN report on possible war crimes comes on the backdrop of the latest developments in Idlib, Syria’s last major opposition-held bastion. On Sunday, Turkey initiated a full-scale military operation in the region against Syrian forces in response to the killing of more than 30 of its soldiers.